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106 – Instinct vs Intellect



I hope everyone had a great weekend, mine was pretty good.  On Saturday I sheared 9 sheep…and today every muscle in my legs and back are sore because of it, but its a good kind of sore.

If you read all the way to the end of this I have some news to share with you, I hope you hang around for that, but right now I want to dive into the topic for today.

Everybody knows what instincts are, right?  They are innate, fixed patterns of behavior and responses to certain stimuli.  There are many, many examples of this, we see it everyday.

The term instinct is most commonly used when talking about animals.  Birds build nest on instinct.  Squirrels gather nuts, bull Elks fight, Dogs love their owners, cats bury their poop…all of these behaviors are instinctual.  They don’t really have to think about it, they are compelled by their nature to do these things.

I don’t think there was a cat that one day decided…hey, if I bury my poop that will be a lot more tidy and I won’t offend anyone, NO!  Cats are simply compelled to bury their poop because at some point in the development of their species, burying their poop aided in their survival and it got into their DNA.

The reason I am talking about instinct today is because we, humans…are animals as well.  That makes some people mad, but its really kind of scientifically undeniable.  We are biological animals.

We are Homo Sapiens of the Kingdom Animalia, the Phylum Chordata, the Subphylum Vertebrata, the Class mammalia, the order primates, and the genus Homo.

We have all the same organs, and our biological systems work just like all the other members of the wild kingdom…and yes, we have instincts too.

Humans are kind of special though.  We are at the very top of the food chain.  We drastically alter the world around us.  What else makes us special is that unlike common animals we have the power to create, to innovate, and to imagine….we have, intellect. 

Some people think our ability to create and innovate is evidence of a spark of divinity that resides within us…while others think it is a gift to humans from the divine, while still others think it is just the way we evolved with our super big brains.  However we got it…the important thing is that we have it.  We possess intellect and reason on one side of the coin and on the other side, we have our instincts and more base functions…because we are also animals.

The title of this episode is instinct VS intellect.  That title implies that the two things are at odds with one another and, many times…I believe they are, at least in how they are applied in today’s world.

What prompted me to talk about this, is many times I have seen men directly or indirectly blame their behavior on their instincts, as though they are powerless to behave otherwise…as though they are compelled, like a cat burying it’s poop. 

In other words, I have seen men turn their instincts into excuses.  You all know how I feel about excuses;  they are weak.  They are frail utterances that come out of the mouths of people who are not strong enough to own their own actions.  Excuses are pathetic.

Probably the most common mis-use of the word instinct by men is in the case of infidelity, and also less severe cases of sexually inappropriate behavior towards women.  Look, we have a natural sexual attraction and desire, thats healthy and normal, but when men use this attraction as an excuse to behave essentially, like an animal.  Then it becomes disgusting, and very possibly the worst of what it is to be a man.

What really drives me nuts is when society buys into that.  Society itself starts making excuses for men and you hear things like “boys will be boys”, or “well he’s just a man, he can’t help it,” and a host of other common excuses for men, when they are not acting like men.

Many of the instincts we possess as humans are very helpful, they even save lives.  Like the flight or fight instinct for example.  Other instincts  developed to establish social bonds and the ultimate continuation of our species.Instincts themselves are not inherently bad at all…only when they are turned into excuses.

The more complex an animals brain is, the more it relies on social learning and the less it relies on instincts to survive.  As humans we have the most developed brains so it stands to reason that we rely on instincts less than other animals do.  Though, when I’m hiking out in the woods, I bury my poop just like a cat, but for entirely different reasons.

As a human, and as a man specifically because this show is about men, we have the ability to do something that very few if any other animals can do;  we can over-ride our instinct and other base primal compulsions, with our intellect.

It’s a pretty amazing ability!  When I was a kid and I did something I knew I was not supposed to do…if my parents asked me if I did that thing I would have an instinct come up.  The instinct of self preservation, it’s not a natural thing to place ourselves in dangerous or uncomfortable positions.  This instinct would tell me to lie, to deny the accusation.

But, my intellect, and what I had gained through social learning as a result of how I was raised gave me the capacity to over-ride this instinct, and tell the truth, even though I would get in trouble.  That is a really basic example of what I am talking about.

OK, with all that being said…how do we apply this to our every day life?  What kind of value am I trying to impart here?

What I’m giving you today is partly a reminder about who you are and what you are capable of, but more than that, what I am issuing is a call to action. 

The call to action is pretty simple, here it is; 

“If you find yourself inclined to do something that you know is not right…then, don’t do it.  Instead use your intellect to rise above your other impulses.”

That is the call to action.

It’s important to note; I’m not talking about what society tells you is right and wrong…thats a whole other debate.  I’m talking about what you know, personally in your own being to be wrong.  Then it is a pure case of instinct and impulse over-riding intellect, instead of the other way around.

Our intellect is what sets us apart from the animal kingdom and makes us…men.  If we don’t use our intellect to be men, then, what are we…besides just another hairless ape? 

In my opinion, to really be a man in the truest sense of the word we need to make use of our intellect, our reason, our imagination, our power of creation and invention.  We need to intellectually impose our will onto ourselves, and the world around us.

To do anything else, is invalid.  There is no valid excuse for doing something that you know you should not do.  Yet, men do it all the time, and most of us, including myself have done this at one time or another. 

When this happens the majority of men will justify their actions somehow, some of them will blame it on instinct or nature or whatever, they will claim their right to act against what they admit to knowing, is wrong. 

The rest of us will acknowledge what we did, accept the consequences, learn from it, and go forward in life intending to not do that again.

The second, smaller group are men, not just men, but better men, having learned that lesson…  The other, larger group, the excuse makers, are not, in my opinion.

That about covers what I have to say about instinct VS intellect for today, it should give you some things to think about as you go through the week.  As usual I would love to hear your comments and thoughts about this episode.  (Write me here)

Now, for the news I mentioned at the start of this episode.

I’ve been doing this podcast for about 8 months now, all on my own dime.  I’m not complaining, its just a fact.  Last week I had a meeting with a sponsor who may want to help support the show.   I’m kind of excited about that because its for a product that I think a lot of you could use.

However, I really don’t want to wind up having a bunch of commercials.  But neither can I continue on forever the way I’ve been going. 

I feel it’s really important that I continue producing this podcast.  The feedback I’ve gotten from you listeners, backs that up.  Men are walking around thinking about being better men…and that is making the world a better place.

So the answer that made sense to me is a website called Patreon.  It’s a place where you, the Patrons, the consumers of this content can help support the show and keep it going.

It makes sense to me because, if the consumers don’t find enough value in it to keep it going…then, maybe there isn’t enough value in it? 

So I’m asking you to check out the Patreon page at  You can Type Being A Better Man in the search bar, or click the link in the show notes of this episode or on the Facebook page, but check it out.  There’s a whole bunch of different levels, you can pledge whatever you like, and when you do…that is telling me “keep going Alf, keep making this podcast”

It becomes a different type of relationship than being just a listener to a podcast…when you contribute to it, you become part of it.

Once again…here is that call to action:

“If you find yourself inclined to do something that you know is not right…then, don’t do it.  Instead use your intellect to rise above your other impulses.”

So thats it for today guys.  Now head out into the week ahead and be aware of your instincts…but be more aware of your abilities to over-ride them when necessary.  Keep doing the things that YOU know are right, and you will be a better man today, than you were yesterday.

Here is that Patreon Link once again:

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