Why Guilt Feelings Are Required For Learning And Success

a) “It’s not my fault, he started it.”
b) “Don’t get mad at me, I couldn’t help myself.”
c) “My genes made me do it.”

Speed Reading is a requirement for success.


We expect to see kids give into temptation and be impulsive. Sort of like
obese people and the sight of chocolate. Kids see and hear about the fun of drugs and alcohol, and it becomes a rite-of-passage for becoming an adult.

Adults are expected to resist illegal and dangerous impulses through their will power (choice), and volition. Two more deterrents: jails and lawsuits. We live in a society, which limits our individual freedoms by laws and regulations to prevent social chaos.

Adult overeaters see the Cherry pie and start with a small slice, and before you know it…it’s all gone. What happens to self-indulging kids when they become adults? Some become sociopaths, a club you don’t want to join.


Sociopaths consider only their own life and desires, as valuable. He/she is anti-social, with a personality exhibiting no moral responsibility. “I got mine, go get yours – no matter how.” Not you or me of course, just some impulsive other folks.

It starts young and leads to stealing a toy, and ends with Bernard Madoff,
blaming the investors for giving him their funds ($65 Billion) without investigating.


We have impulses about people, things, and what we will say and do next. Some
we resist, others are on instantly acted on. An impulse is an uncontrolled emotion
moving from desire to instant behavior. “I’d like to grab by boss by the throat!”

A tiny minority Go Postal (workplace, school, and bowling alley), when the rest of us stop to analyze and weigh the equities of the offense. Does the punishment fit the crime? Impulse comes from Latin meaning Pressure, push. Does the urge or whim
run your brain or do you censor (veto) your impulsive triggers?


Is there is no free will, then we cannot be responsible for our actions. If we are hardwired for all our decisions (programmed and conditioned) no one goes to
jail because there is no responsibility or fault. “It was in my genes!”

Our brain continues structural growth until we are about 25-26. The decision-making, planning, judging, and analyzing structures of adults are located in our Pre-Frontal Cortex. For adolescents and teenagers, they are still a work-in-progress.

It makes sense to cut teenagers some slack because they really are not playing with
a full deck. See: UCLA, National Institute of Mental Health, and McGill University
research in 2000. Experience trains our brain in decision-making, not passing laws.


The U.S. has more folks in prisons than any other industrialized country. One-in one-hundred, based on our 2009 population of 306 million. You got 2.4% of adults
in Federal, State, or Holding Centers. Wait – if you consider probation and parole,
the number is 7.5 million. Right – 2.4 full-time, and another 5 million part-timers.

Impulses, temptations, and exercising self-control create a major industry in the U.S. called private incarceration. It is a billion-dollar listing on the stock exchange.
They want stricter enforcement of laws; a 20-year sentence for a marijuana cigarette creates more customers for their private prisons.

University of Iowa (Google: Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, Aug. 2009)

ESC (Effortful Self Control) is the psychological term for resisting temptation.
We start learning from 2-years of age to inhibit (suppress) impulses that can cause
harm to others, and punishment to us the doer.

The lead author at UI on this study of youngsters is professor Grazyna Kochanska. She adds an interesting twist on the benefits of feeling guilty for hurting others and damaging their property.

She explains the difference between Shame and Guilt. When we shame the child because of bad behavior, he or she concludes their person is worthless, and gives up trying to improve.

We do not want our kids or career peers to conclude they are hopeless, helpless, and worthless. It is a game-ender. We do want to focus their guilty feelings on their bad behavior.

Problem: kids and 90% of adults cannot see a difference between – “Tom,
what you did is not acceptable behavior here at IBM”, and “Tom, you are a bad person.” We hear the latter as, “You deserve to die by incineration immediately
because you are permanently shameful and bad.”

What To Do

Focus on their bad behavior sure, but make them produce amends for their
action. When you require restitution, reparation, and atonement, not only do
kids and adults get negative feedback permanently registered as a neural network
in their brain, they feel relief after making things right.

Don’t merely punish for negative behaviors, set standards for reasonable payback.
Do you believe a 70-year old Bernard Madoff will serve a 150-year sentence to federal prison for stealing money?

Is there a mockery of justice when a convicted murderer serves an average of 8-12 years, and a swindler is given three-life sentences? Don’t we seem to respect Money more than human Life? Oh, we do?

If you were an Appeals judge, would you reduce Madoff’s sentence? How about
taking away his money, multi-million-dollar homes, luxury boats, and making him
work in soup kitchens for ten-years?


I learned that ‘Atonement’ comes from “At One (atone) in Harmony. Our goal should be to coerce the guilty person to produce satisfaction to the person or organization he/she harmed.

If the guilty one caused injury and wrong, they should be required to produce a tangible benefit in return. Mouthing platitudes of remorse and contrition teaches nothing and does not ameliorate the loss suffered, right?

We need a new insurance policy underwriting to cover restitution for our negligence and crimes. If it would reduce the Court’s sentence, Wall Street would jump on it.


Would it make you more competitive in school and career to be able to read and remember three (3) books, articles, and reports, in the time your peers can hardly
finish one? Would you get more promotions, and be more valuable to your organization? Ask us how – right now.

Speed Reading is your equalizer tool for success.

See ya,
copyright © 2009 H. Bernard Wechsler

Author's Bio: 

Author of Speed Reading For Professionals, published by Barron's.
Business partner of Evelyn Wood, graduating 2 million, including
the White House staffs of four U.S. Presidents.