Category Archives: Well-being

Happiness deck

Prototype for happiness/well-being card deck.

What do you think?

2My calling is to help a millon people lead happier and more satisfying lives. Mainly business people caught up in the rat race. There’s great hope and cause for celebration. Moore’s Law favors us all. Help me reach a million by the end of the year. Pass the word.

Let’s go viral now
Everybody’s learning how
Come on and safari with me
(come on and safari with…)      lyric


Can your team’s marriage be saved?

clo_logo_sm (1)Can This Marriage Be Saved?

by Jay Cross

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The National Institute of Mental Health spent millions of your tax dollars to build John and Julie Gottman a Love Lab. At the lab, personnel observed thousands of couples. They shot video, monitored heart rates, jitteriness and skin conductivity. They amassed recordings of Continue reading

Emotional Business


Some of you have inquired about my research into happiness and well-being. I paused the project for six weeks. Upon return, I realized there’s a lot more to it. Taking a broader perspective, I realized you can’t deal with happiness without addressing joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, love, sadness, anxiety, anger, motivation, and relationships, Continue reading

Your character strengths


You can achieve more success by fully leveraging your strengths than by shoring up your weaknesses.

Spend twenty minutes to take the VIA Survey of Character Strengths on the Authentic Happiness site.

Find opportunities to apply your strengths in everything you do. You’ll be happier.

Do it. It works.

Christoper Peterson

chris petersonChristopher Peterson, the godfather of personal strengths research, died Continue reading

Greater Good Science Center


I just got back from the first local member meeting of the Greater Good Science Center here in Berkeley. Started by a grant a dozen years ago, Greater Good was a print magazine. The founders imagined “an organization that would identify the roots of healthy relationships and flourishing individuals, exploring qualities such as compassion, altruism, respect, trust, tolerance, and wisdom.” Continue reading

Giving my computers a break

Ten years ago next month, Clifford Nass and Byron Reeves published The Media Equation: How People Treat Computers, Television, and New Media Like Real People and Places. The Stanford profs had conducted a series of standard psychology experiments but substituted a computer for one of the participants. From the Amazon review:

“Fresh evidence of human gullibility never fails to entertain. Stanford professors Reeves and Nass provide plenty of cocktail-party ammunition with findings from 35 laboratory experiments demonstrating how even technologically sophisticated people treat boxes of circuitry as if they were other human beings. People are polite to computers, respond to praise from them and view them as teammates. They like computers with personalities similar to their own, find masculine-sounding computers extroverted, driven and intelligent while they judge feminine-sounding computers knowledgeable about love and relationships. Viewers rate content on a TV embellished with the label ‘specialist’ superior to identical content on a TV labeled ‘generalist’ (they even found the picture clearer on the ‘specialist’ box).”

It proved tough to put the theory into practice. Microsoft Bob was based on Nass and Reeves’ research. But the results weren’t all bad: Bill Gates married Microsoft Bob’s marketing manager, Melinda. Wikipedia reports that…

Bob received the 7th place in PC World magazine’s list of the 25 worst tech products of all time, a spot in Time magazine’s list of the 50 Worst Inventions, and number one worst product of the decade by

The notion of treating computers as if they are people popped into my head this morning when my wife stuck her head in my office to ask what was wrong. “Nothing,” I said. “Just swearing at the computer.” My research on well-being at work has sensitized me to the impact of negative emotions. At team whose members don’t express at least three positive emotions for every negative emotion will fall apart.

Could my outbursts against the computer be stressing me out? Nobel prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman has demonstrated that the slightest emotional transaction can color one’s mood for hours. And I was swearing at my computer whenever I hit a glitch, which translates into one rant every fifteen or twenty minutes throughout the day.

Would it make me happier if I stopped griping about the machine? I decided to find out.

As of right now, I have ceased swearing at my Macs. In fact, I’ll praise them when they do a great job. After all, the iMac I’m writing this on is 25,000 times faster than the first computer I ever operated — an IBM 7094 Mod II — and cost 25,000 times less. And it connects me to the world. Not bad.

Unlearning habits formed over the course of decades will take strong reminders. I’m giving that reminding task to Mr. Bill and Ratbert. They’re right on my machine, ready to remind me that the problem is just a software issue (Mr. Bill takes those hits) or human error (Catbert’s department.) They will council me to calm down. Time fixes all glitches.

Redefining the Media Equation

Think I’ll be able to hang in for at least a week? And do you think it might improve my mood?

Redefining the Media Equation


Sitting kills


Taking a Stand for Office Ergonomics

The health hazards of sitting for long stretches are significant even for people who are quite active when they’re not sitting down

Still, scientists have determined that after an hour or more of sitting, the production of enzymes that burn fat in the body declines by as much as 90 percent. Extended sitting, they add, slows the body’s metabolism of glucose and lowers the levels of good (HDLcholesterol in the blood. Those are risk factors toward developing heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

The science is still evolving, but we believe that sitting is harmful in itself,” says Dr. Toni Yancey, a professor of health services at the University of California, Los Angeles.

I switched to standing desks several years ago. My upper office work tables are a few inches above waist-height. A fat squirrel enjoys running up and down the redwood tree just outside the window.

Standing desk

Step-stools lift my 120″ x 32″ work surface off the floor.

Bench to raise desk

Downstairs in the Lab, I work at a waist-high slab of butcher block I bought at IKEA and mounted atop storage cabinets.

Standing desk at Internet Time Lab

Those with sharp eyes will note Internet Time Lines, my n-scale model railroad, at the back of the butcher block top.

Standing desk at Internet Time Lab Internet Time Lines

Internet Time Lines Internet Time Lines

Do I get tired from standing all day? Never. I do suggest standing on a rug rather than a hard floor:

Rug at workstation

Leonardo da Vinci, Ben Franklin, and Winston Churchill worked at standing desks and that’s good enough for me.

Wondering what this has to do with my primary interests in happiness and working smarter? Healthier people are happier and more productive than the norm. Standing up at work adds a few years to your life!

Update from Europe

Foreign environments exhilarate me. I just got back from Online Educa Berlin and a series of private conversations in Europe. Insights are overflowing my ability to record them and I’m having a ball.

Online Educa Berlin Online Educa Berlin

Online Educa always leaves a special afterglow. Over the course of three days, I conversed with hundreds of colleagues from forty or fifty countries. I used to say that after conversation, the most important learning accelerant was beer. I’ve changed my mind. Riesling is a more effective learning lubricant.

Online Educa Berlin Online Educa Berlin

This year’s highlight was the debate. Donald Clark and Jef Staes convinced an audience filled with academics that “banning schools and universities from awarding degrees and diplomas would improve both competence development and lifelong learning.” Read Donald’s take on the debate here. As recently as a year ago, this outcome would have been impossible.

Online Educa Berlin Online Educa Berlin

The eloquent opening keynotes by Mark Milliron (Western Governors Univesity) and Sir Michael Barber (Pearson) undoubtedly softened up the debate audience. College and universities that fail to change face extinction.

So many friends, too little time.

Online Educa Berlin Online Educa Berlin

Online Educa Berlin Online Educa Berlin

After Berlin, I flew to Frankfurt. At an outrageously tasty Italian restaurant, TULSER‘s Jos Arets and Vivian Heijnen and I brainstormed plans to help people be healthy, happy, and productive:

Frankfurt Frankfurt

Stay tuned.

Travel has its up and downs. The biggest downer was United Air Lines. I flew UAL back because I qualified for more legroom – “economy plus.” I don’t know how UAL stays in business.

United Air Lines United Air Lines

Pre-arrival lunch consisted of a bag of potato chips, an inedible cold cheese and turkey roll, a packet of mustard, and a small piece of candy.

“I can’t believe you serve this incredibly unhealthy food,” I told the cabinet attendant as I handed back my untouched meal.

“I can’t either,” she replied. “It’s worse when flying the other direction, and there’s nothing I can do about it. You have more power to fix this than I do, but you don’t have much power either.”

Unlike my Lufthansa flight to Europe, United charges for wine and beer. I paid $7 for a plastic bottle of mediocre red. Also, there’s no individual entertainment. Everyone watches the same movie. I told the cabin attendant I was going to cut my Gold Premier card in pieces and send it to UAL management. She wished me luck.

At the opposite extreme, the Hotel Spenerhaus in Frankfurt was a dream. I had a small but adequate room. Squeaky clean. Across from a church but they’d considerately provided ear plugs. Free Gummi bears on the pillow. Free peanuts on my desk in the afternoon. Fine free breakfast. Free newspaper. Free apples on the counter.

When I checked in, I asked about Wi-Fi. Free. “You are our guest,” said the manager. Recommendations for dinner? A great tapas bar two blocks away the first night. The Italian restaurant served the marvelous antipasti pictured above with lunch. (We returned that evening for pasta with fresh white truffles.) Two blocks from the cathedral. Three blocks from the Christmas market. Surrounded by art galleries and antique stores. Wunderbar.

The function of business is to delight the customer. Hotel Spenerhaus gets it. United Air Lines doesn’t. United says “United is the world’s leading airline and is focused on being the airline customers want to fly, the airline employees want to work for and the airline shareholders want to invest in.” Ha! I bet UAL doesn’t exist ten years from now.




Formula for happiness

Future of Talent
I spent Monday and Tuesday getting inspired at the Future of Talent Retreat. This is my eighth year in row. Every returning alumnus said they inevitably depart with new ways of looking at the world.

Kevin Wheeler pulls insights out of the group that we didn’t know were there. Yes, I am biased but it’s not because I’m on the faculty. I don’t make any money from our Retreat; neither does Kevin.

My topic this year was bringing emotion into the workplace. Giving a presentation forced me to distill five months of findings down to essence. I’m still learning about what makes for lasting happiness, but here’s the overall prescription.

  • Relationships. Nurture your connections. Be compassionate. Express your gratitude. Love others. 
  • Flow. Enjoy peak performance by doing what you enjoy. Seek appropriate challenges. Apply your signature strengths. JFDI.
  • Mindful. Pay attention. Count your blessings. Savor the good stuff. Be open. Express your joy in life. Favor positive emotions over negative. 
  • Calling. Embrace a noble cause, something bigger than yourself. Take note of your progress. Don’t let the bastards get you down. 

Do these things and I assure you, you’ll be more content with your life. It works for me. Soon I’ll be sharing practices for you to get there.

My curated articles on happiness and well-being
Article on previous Future of Talent Retreat
My recent blog posts on happiness and leading a satisfying life