Friends of Ben: Steve Silberman

I’ve been remiss in not updating the Friends of Ben series (where I profile interesting friends of mine) as often as I should but after a deeply thought provoking conversation with today’s feature I resolved to update it.

Network: Ben Casnocha > Cole Valley Neighborhood/Blogging > Steve Silberman

Google: Steve Silberman

Steve is a contributing editor at Wired magazine where he’s been for 10 years. I first met Steve more than a year ago when he emailed me saying he was a fellow Cole Valley resident in SF. Since from time to time I do interviews with press people I was expecting another of the same. It turned out that Steve was unlike any other journalist I had met with – he wasn’t interested in business as much as the people behind them. He wasn’t interested in Comcate as much as me, the person; a living breathing person with experiences and feelings and complexities.

Talking with Steve reminds me that life is about people, corporations are about people. I’ve always had appreciation for anyone who has studied human behavior, cognitive science, or psychology. No matter how many layers of suits one hides behind, no matter how staunchly one projects a certain identity to achieve a certain goal, at our core there is something very primal and authentic and common about the way humans act. Few people in this world are able to penetrate the barriers we put up around ourselves that only are disarmed when we are sitting in bed in darkness, unable to sleep, engulfed in our own conscious. We are the only ones who know what is rattling around in our inner-selves. It is a great struggle (and an innate urge) for humans to communicate these inner thoughts to people close to you. Most of us fail, and the sane people of the world can manage this failure of communication by living in the company of their own thoughts and feelings that others do not understand.

What’s remarkable about Steve is his ability to get as close to those inner thoughts as anyone has, for me at least. Through razor blunt but gently kind questions we grappled with some of the issues I’ve written about on this blog – narcissisism, college, relationships with peers, and so forth.

The most heartening take away for me from our chat was that many of these life developmental issues require two sets of skills – a skill to develop a framework for thinking about it (being able to have conversations with others or yourself about them), and then the skills themselves – like empathy, love, etc. – which we all have the genetic capacity for, but only some of us develop to the fullest extent possible.

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