Are You Happy?
Over the last 3 years, I consumed numerous articles, books and videos on Happiness. It has become a big deal:
In September 2013, 1000 books about happiness came out on Amazon in that month alone. Over 5,000 motivation speakers are earning collectively $1 billion (reference):
> Why has Happiness become so important in our lives?
The western world has now achieved a level of comfort that let us explore happiness., assisted by research (neuroscience, sociology…). Also, media is helping it to snowball.
Last week, Stanford University gathered 5 experts on happiness to host a panel discussion (1:28:33 video, link below), 6 themes stood out:
1) Are certain people hardwired for happiness?
We all have different traits: There are genetic factors, our upbringing also plays a huge role.
Events make happiness fluctuate: Our habits, what you do in your day to day life: exercise, meditate, focus on relationships;
2) How does Stress affect our daily lives?
Stress can be positive: you should see it as a spectrum of possibilities
In stressful / life threatening situations (e.g. having advanced cancer), mortality might change your focus on what is truly important for you: “what am I on earth for?”
Focusing your time on a passion or “calling” makes you a lot happier than following what’s on others’ calendars: Many people are doing something for someone else, such as getting a good job for parents/society. Plenty of people have a job that looks good but feels bad.
3) How is a Happy life different than a Meaningful life?
Happy & Meaningful are interlinked and positively correlated:
4) Do we set the happiness bar too high?
In the West, the norm is to show happiness and hide unhappiness: When people are in groups, it is desirable to show you are happy.
Yet you can’t be happy at all times: negative emotions also have their value (anger, sadness…) They are only a problem when they become chronic.
5) How does money affect happiness?
Money is related to happiness, yet the correlation is not as big as we think:
As long as you cover your basic needs, extra money doesn’t provide such a marginal difference for happiness, it’s called Easterlin Paradox.
Money doesn’t make you happy: how you spend it does. Such as spending on experiences, charity, personal growth, community, traveling is different than buying an object. Consider those two experiences:
Experience 1: Scientists asked people about their buying practices: “Would you engage in this experience if you could tell no one about it ?” In other words, are you experimenting/buying things for yourself, or as a social trophy? (research here)
Experience 2: When asking people “Say we give you $100, how would you spent it?”: Those spending money on an experience report higher happiness than those spending money on an object. (research here)
“Bertrand Russell used to say, ‘Beggars do not envy millionaires, though of course they will envy other beggars who are more successful‘” says psychologist Cameron Anderson
6) What is the Impact of technology on happiness?
– For shy people, or with rare interest/condition, social media helps you connect with peers you couldn’t reach out to any other way.
– If you are stressed: the most powerful buffer for stress is genuine social support. People that truly care for you, Social support is #1.
– If you share goals meaningful to you and others endorse/support them, technology can help you build something larger than yourself
– In the Time poll, 60% of respondents said they do not feel better about themselves after spending time on social media.
– Social Media can be a distraction from the moment and create FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), it’s crazy to see most of Gen-Yers being affected by this
– Technology lacks of interpersonal connection, keeps you from being empathic: Face to Face communication is always best!
BONUS: Most important ingredients for a happy life
Meaning: Think about how you are spending your time, and what meaning it has for you
Support system: Do you feel that your actions are likely to be meaningful for people around you
Sleep is key to restore and maintain health: our brain, mind and body get recharged.
Having a Sense of Control in your life: Experiencing Personal Growth, engage in new experiences, start new relationships.
Gratitude: You feel it when you appreciate what you have, feel humble and connected. Try it by writing gratitude letters to those who helped you. Appreciating what you have is great to combat adaptation and steering away from wanting more what you don’t have.
Increase meaningfulness: Authenticity/genuineness is key, the more you have it, the higher probability for good things to happen. It is important to recognize when you are going through tough time and reach out for help, it’s equally important to help others when they need it.
If you like this, share the happiness!
“Here I am, standing in the middle of nowhere in Poland holding a sign to hitch a ride…
…sweat dripping, car after car rushing by.. rain is coming in too.
What the hell am I doing here…”
Things didn’t look too good then. But let me tell you this story from the start:
In April 2012, I bought tickets to Poland so that I could explore the country by myself, couchsurfing and hitchhiking for 10 days.
Couchsurfing is the largest travel community online, allowing you to “surf” members’ couches. By then, I had already couch surfed in Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Estonia…
I was excited to leave the office for 10 days to try and hitchhike my way through Poland. Starting in Warsaw I headed to Krakow, as well as Wroclaw to grab a bus that would take me to Prague, Czech Republic.
I spent my first two days in Warsaw at Marcin’s house, a great guy who took me around the city for drinks with his friends, Couchsurfing’s power is in the encounters you make; 99% of the time you will end up going places and meeting people that you would have never met otherwise.
After an eventful stay in Warsaw, it was time for me to hit the road and go to Krakow. I knew very little about hitchhiking, so I figured that a large piece of cardboard and a marker pen would be a good start. I started making my way, by bus then on foot, to a suitable spot. I had a rough idea of where the main roads were, so I positioned myself near the highway sign which read “Radom”, a city on the way to Krakow.
On my way to Krakow
Oh! I forgot to mention that the drive from Warsaw to Krakow takes about 4 hours. Now, taking on a hitchhiker is a commitment, however taking on a hitchhiker for… 4 hours…
It was 7.30 am on a Bank Holiday (Labour Day), so very few cars were passing by. I started holding my sign up high, and I smiled. Amazingly enough, not five minutes later, an Audi A3 pulled over. The driver was a guy my age, a cool Polish fireman on his way to Radom (pretty much the halfway mark towards Krakow): Sweet! He couldn’t speak English so we had a chat in German about the Mercedes cars he collects and repairs, great guy really.
As agreed, I was dropped off in the countryside near Radom and had to find a car in what seemed the middle of nowhere. 20 minutes later, two guys driving by the scenic polish countryside pulled over, and took me all the way to Krakow!
I was amazed by how smoothly everything was running, it may start to sound like it was just too easy…
Two other couchsurfing hosts in Krakow who were kind enough to show me around day and night, then once more, it was time for me to leave for Wroclaw (about 3 hours drive).
Going back on the road had me pretty excited and I crafted another sign from a piece of cardboard, which I received from a bar.
Friends took me to an artificial lake in Krakow
So, here I was in a new spot, asking drivers to have me tag along with them for 3 hours. As I stood on the shoulder of the road, stretching my arms to hold up my sign, I started smiling.
> After the first hour, I started moving up and down the road to keep myself entertained.
> After two hours, I started to capture the attention of people driving the opposite way, in the odd chance they would turn around and fetch me! Most people looked at me smiling, but shook their heads meaning “no”, with an apologetic smile.
> After three hours, I took my 7-year old iPod out to put some music on, and started dancing with my sign; it wasn’t pretty.
> After four hours, it started raining and my mind started to wonder about different options. I was starting to get tired and was having a harder time making eye contact with every single driver, which I think is essential.
> After four hours and twenty five minutes, a car finally pulled over. Yes! I ran towards the vehicle while vigorously pointing at my sign with a slight look of desperation in my eyes. We exchanged a few words and it appeared they had misunderstood me after all, they couldn’t help me and had to drive away.
There I was, feeling exhausted as I watched them drive off. So, I did the only thing I could think of: I held my sign up high and kept smiling at every single car passing by.
Believe it or not, just two minutes later, after four hours and twenty-ish minutes, another car pulled over and Justyna (plus her baby Karol and a friend) drove me all the way to Wroclaw.
When I got back home, I sent a “thank you” message to Justyna on Facebook, which they did reply to eventually, about 18 months later. We still keep an eye on each other’s activities today.
PS: After Wroclaw, I took a bus to Prague. Metallica was playing the Black Album that night, cheap tickets were available, oh yeah!
Attitude is king
Everything we do is a number’s game. For me, showing the right attitude means being authentic and dedicated. Believe in what you do and keep at it! Good things will happen! This also requires you to practice being flexible. Try to get feedback any chance you get!
> Attitude shows! You can almost smell it on some people. Doing what you love with a passion will set you apart in nearly all situations. You will be happier about what you do and that makes all the difference
Uncertainty Doesn’t Need to be Unpleasant
Finding my way through Poland over the course of 10 days, alone, might not sound like your ideal vacation. Really though, I do travel with others much more often than I travel alone. Yet, you will soon realize that it is when you travel alone without a set plan that you make the most encounters. Being flexible in your travels lets you experience a new and mysterious city with locals, learning things no ordinary tourist would have the chance to see.
I probably missed out on numbers of historical buildings, but hitchhiking and couchsurfing had me interacting with Polish people most hours of the day, helping me to discover people and places I couldn’t have found on your typical vacation.
> Not knowing what will happen next makes life exciting for some, stressful for others. Looking back, we’ll all agree that no one can predict how life will turn out to be: Be prepared to embrace uncertainty.)
“What is the worst that could happen?”
Ask yourself this question, and ask it often. What is the worst that could happen? If I hadn’t been picked up, what then? An extra night at a ho(s)tel or maybe catching the next bus. This was just a short trek through urban Europe, where most things can be fixed easily. Since then, I’ve done a few solo travels in Colombia – arguably more dangerous – yet I found myself in a similar setup to Poland.
> Careers are non-linear, we all deal with uncertainty in our daily lives. You might get let go, there’s only so much one can control. Ask yourself this question often, and be thorough.
PS: I took all photos during my Polish Trip, drawing by A. Dutel. If you like article this, share it!
Chris graduated from University on May 1st, 2013 and decided to turn down corporate offers to start an experiment ayearofproductivity.com:
“For exactly one year, (…) I will devour everything I can get my hands on about productivity, and then write every day about what I’m learning.” – Chris
Great mission! Chris took the time to sit down with me and to tell us a bit more about his project:
3 Reasons why I love ayearofproductivity.com
1) Walking the talk
When Chris wants to prove a point, he goes all the way. To write about TED Talks, he decided to watch 70 hours of Talks. Another time, he meditated for 35 hours within a week. Few people actually do what they say. Running “full scale” experiments helps building Chris’ expertise, and it shows through his articles.
2) Actionable take aways
OK, Chris does crazy things that you might not have time to replicate. That’s why he blogs about it through short articles designed to dive deeper into each topic and make them actionable, such as The 7 characteristics of highly effective people who give TED talks.
3) Going the extra mile
Yes, he runs a blog about productivity, yet he knows that accomplishing more won’t make you happier. Productivity is one of many aspects of life, and needs to be balanced. I completely agree with him on this one too:
“If you expect to become happier because you make more money, lose weight, get a promotion, or get more work done, research has shown that you’re looking for happiness in the wrong place.”
One more thing
Chris is running an ongoing experiment, if you like what you see don’t forget to pitch in a few bucks and help him sustain it!
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Most of us want to have it all: Great careers, balanced family lives sparked with travels and hobbies, maybe even passions.
Since I’m currently on a gap year, it seems like a good time to reflect on a few things. Today, I do feel that Career, Passion & Karma are like three legs of a stool. Check this out:
University students are hardwired with the belief: Work hard, pay your dues, you will have a great career. But you will fail to have a great career: If you love what you do, you’ll have a passion and not a career. If you don’t, you can still have a career but I won’t be great because you will be working hard for something you don’t love.
“Like” and “Love” aren’t the same: think relationships, if you simply like it, keep looking. Hey, it’s fine not to know what your passion/calling is from day-1, my point is that you better enjoy yourself at all stages of the process of finding out.
> More on this on “Why you will fail to have a great career.”, a brilliant TED video. Very unique speaker as well, comes across as a bit socially awkward yet still manages to convey a brilliant message
We all grew up with many interests (sports, music, arts…), and we look up to those who live up to their passions (athletes, artists…): It’s well accepted that passions can be the highest expression of ourselves. Aren’t passions what you love doing everyday?
So, I’ve kept asking the same question, over and over: “What would you do if money wasn’t important”? What would you do with your life? More Flyfishing, more family time, travelling?
It’s not about winning the lottery, it’s about knowing where you want your time and energy and how you will get there.
Let’s pause at this stage, you might think “Yes, it’s easy to encourage people to quit their jobs and go play, but we all have blablabla….”.
Some commitments we have cannot be altered, but most of them can. Waiting for a promotion, or the end of the crisis, paying your dues at work, getting more experience… aren’t good excuses.
> More on this on “The 4-Hour week” blog. Tim – the author – is all about simplifying and regrouping: less work, more efficiently.
I like Karma, in and outside business: What goes around comes around. I’m reading Guy Kawasaki, Shawn Achor, Derek Sivers, Seth Godin, Tim Ferriss… They all support the “pay forward” mentality that fuel many entrepreneurs.
It’s important to make time, share and help others, if being a nice person is not enough of a reasons, the strength of your social relationships is the single characteristic that distinguishes the happiest 10% of the population from everybody else.
More on Karma with Reid Hoffman, PayPal/LinkedIn exec’, he uses Georges Clooney as an example. Georges came to Hollywood in ‘82 and landed his ER gig in… ‘94. Talent and connexions will help you, but only your attitude and persistence will help you truly accelerate what you do and seize opportunity when they arise.
Be your nice self, look into a direction you love and keep at it, good things will happen.
“Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted”, Larry Smith.
-Rodolphe (initially published on dutel.fr)
Who, would you say, knows you best? Yourself, your family, your significant other, friends, colleagues?
We are all social animals and we love interacting: I’m curious and I love meeting new people. Since 2010, I’ve been lucky to travel extensively via Couchsurfing, an online community connecting millions of travelers meeting and hosting each other (for free).
Couchsurfing has a built-in system of recommendations where hosts and fellow travelers will leave a note about you, as a person. I find it truly fascinating to see how someone that you have never met before might have perceived you in the few hours or days you have spent together.
I began to wonder to thing about the correlation between how you think about yourself vs how people think about you.
So I went online and found Heidi Grant Halvorson, a popular motivational psychologist, she wrote great HBR articles such as Nine Things Successful People do Differently.
Her article “You Are (Probably) Wrong About Yourself” argues that most of what we do “is happening below our conscious awareness”. Her point is that most of the questioning we do on ourselves is doomed to fail because we fall short of identifying root causes of what we do, hence the important of feedback and external questioning. Here’s another interesting finding
“Your own ratings of your personality traits — for instance, how open-minded, conscientious, or impulsive you are — correlate with the impressions of other people (who know you well) at around .40. In other words, how you see yourself and how other people see you are only very modestly correlated.”
The gap that exists between how we see ourselves and how others see us amazes me. Over the past few years I took the MBTI, True Colors and more recently StrenghtsFinder 2.0. Those tests ask you series of questions to match you with strengths or categories that (supposedly) defines you.
That gay is truly huge, so I began to wonder: How about a test based on what others think of you? That should be interesting too.
Since, Heidi published a book, more article, and a great online conference The Science of Thriving.
-Rodolphe (initially published on dutel.fr)
I almost never give money to street fundraisers. You know, those guys making eye contact with you, waving a friendly hand and asking for “just a minute of your time”?
Well, I use to do that job back in Sydney, Australia, in early 2008. I was a street fundraiser for some time, then I did quit to find another job. It’s a really hard job, kudos to everyone out there making a living through street fundraising: It’s probably one of the best Sales School you can get together with door to door selling.
But the logic behind it is not so great. In Australia, street fundraising companies will craft a deal with a non-for-profit company in order to fundraise on their behalf. We (company & employees) use to get 50 cents on the dollar fundraised. All those good folks supporting NSW Surf Live Saving where giving half of their money to the fundraising logistics.
My generation seems to be a bit reluctant to donate money the old fashion way: Street fundraising and “money in the envelope” style. Since then, I found that a model emerged that will be game changer to NGO in the years to come, I’ve name it FaaS: Fundraising as a Service.
Scott Harrisson, a former New York based party promoter, left his party lifestyle to go be an NGO photographer in Africa for two years before starting charity:water in 2006.
He had a 51-minute chat with Kevin Rose (Google Venture) about his full story, and how he got to create charity:water. Scott has had quite an eventful journey that led him to start this charity, a “from zero-to-hero” redemption story that only America (Hollywood?) can offer…
charity:water is a very interesting NGO for a couple of reasons:
– Use of social media. Most charities haven’t been successfully harnessing social media to extend their footprints. charity:water is using Kickstarter-style campaign approach to fundraising. Individuals are encouraged to join causes and fundraising through their extended networks.
For instance, you can Pledge your birthday (e.g. Ask your network to donate $30 each for your 30th birthday). They also update donors on the actual effect of their donation, using Google Maps geolocation to map wells, and Twitter to follow drilling efforts.
– Transparency is #1. When you give to charity, you are not always sure of how much goes to operations vs the cause you want to support. charity:water published its financial reports and operates two separate bank accounts: 100% of public donations fund clear water projects, while operations are funded by private donors.
I came across several platforms that let you fundraise for one-off events, such as marathons or special events. I am convinced that the traditional way of mail/street fundraising can be dramatically improved, it is impressive to see such a well rounded charity operating as a start-up.
Other start-ups, such as razoo, give you two option: you can be a donate OR a fundraise, offering a full platform to fundraise (Fundraising as a serive, FaaS ?) for a 2.9% “rate”. It’s not 100% to charity, but they still raised over $105,000,000 for charity…
How about nonprofit increase focus on fundraising enablement?
The way those startup communicate, act and expand is appealing to the Y-generation, I wish them all the best!
-Rodolphe (initially published on dutel.fr)
Meet Stuart Diamond, negotiation teacher at Google and Wharton School.
I highly recommend reading his great book: Getting More. One of the discussion points is Trading items of unequal values:
(In a negotiation) “All parties value things differently, and often unequally. Once you find out what they are, you can trade them.
(…) Find out what each party cares and doesn’t care about, big and small, tangible and intangible, in the deal or outside the deal, rational and emotional.
Then trade off items that one party values but the other party doesn’t”.
Find it cool? Check out Stuart’s video below
>> It’s about exploring others’ needs to deliver a compelling value proposition in order to increase value for all parties involved. We all want different things at different times for different reasons, improving how to ask questions will help finding out what others want.
Tim Ferriss is great at this, he leveraged his network (1.2+ million unique visitors on his blog) to promote his last book, The 4-Hour Chef. Prizes were offered to whomever would buy the most books above a given threshold, they would get to meet Tim and loads of swag from Tim’s network (startups he is advising, businesses he is linked to).
He did the same to create a video trailer for his last book: “Tim: Do you think you could create a trailer for The 4-Hour Chef? Well, I’m putting $2,500 USD up for grabs, as well as a 60-minute conversation with me (if you like) and being showcased on this blog to 1.2 million monthly readers.” Doing that the traditional way could cost him 10,000s, instead he’s activating his community. Here’s the Give and Gets matrix:
|Who||What they give||What they get|
|Readers||Their time, $||Entertainment|
|Tim Ferriss||Influence||Loyal readership|
|Featured businesses/cause||Swag, freebies||Huge exposure|
He’s done that with Soma water, Dodocase and also for charity. I find it amazing that he reached a point where he trades influence for what he likes. In the technology space, he might very well be the best at it.
Understanding what people are wanting/lacking will help you strike deals and make changes that you never thought possible. I applied it myself to find and secure Europe’s largest sports goods retailer sponsorship for my nautical adventures, it works!
-Rodolphe (initially published on dutel.fr)