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  • CHADE-MENG TAN: Morning, everybody.

  • Thank you all for being here.

  • My name is Meng.

  • I'm the Jolly Good Fellow of Google,

  • and I'm delighted to be here with my friend Shawn,

  • a fellow Jolly Good Fellow and also

  • a fellow international bestselling author,

  • whose latest book is "Before Happiness,"

  • available at all major bookstores.

  • The first thing you need to know about Shawn Achor

  • is that he is genuinely really nice.

  • You know about his public persona.

  • He's that nice, smiling, happy guy.

  • And in person, he is really that guy.

  • So that's the first thing you need

  • to know about him, genuinely beautiful human being.

  • The second thing you need to know about Shawn

  • is that he has one of the most popular TED Talks

  • ever, almost 6 million views the last I checked,

  • like 5.9 million or something.

  • So if he has $1 per view, he's going

  • to be the Six Million Dollar Man.

  • He's going to run in slow motion all the time.

  • His lectures airing on PBS have been seen by millions.

  • He is the winner of a dozen Distinguished Teaching Awards

  • at Harvard University, a fairly good university

  • the last I heard.

  • Just kidding.

  • Shawn is one of the world's leading experts

  • on the connection between happiness and success,

  • and he has traveled to 50 countries.

  • The first 49, it's kind of meh.

  • But 50, that was impressive.

  • With that, my friends, please welcome my friend Shawn A.

  • SHAWN ACHOR: Thank you.

  • Thank you, everyone.

  • CHADE-MENG TAN: So thank you for being here.

  • I've been looking forward to having you

  • for a really long time.

  • SHAWN ACHOR: Me too.

  • I'm absolutely thrilled.

  • And thank you so much for coming out.

  • It makes it so much more fun to have even all the people that

  • are being streamed in.

  • So thank you.

  • CHADE-MENG TAN: So this is going to be purely a conversation.

  • Q&A is a composition between us and Shawn.

  • And I'm just going ask a couple questions, and about

  • halfway into this conversation we're

  • going to invite you to ask him questions.

  • Feel free to embarrass him.

  • Don't embarrass me.

  • Embarrass this guy.

  • So Shawn, my first question for you a very simple question,

  • how do you define happiness?

  • SHAWN ACHOR: It's actually pretty difficult for us

  • to define it.

  • As Meng mentioned, I've traveled to now

  • over 50 countries over the past seven years

  • studying happiness, which is great.

  • And one of the things that I realized very quickly

  • was that everyone had a different definition

  • of happiness, What they thought would create happiness,

  • the triggers for happiness seemed

  • to be different based upon different cultures,

  • different individuals, even at the same organization.

  • So if you can't define it, maybe can't study it.

  • And if you can't study it, then we

  • can't have things like positive psychology

  • that are looking at how do we raise levels of happiness

  • for other people.

  • Part of what we found is that even though everyone

  • in this room and everyone watching

  • has different definitions of happiness,

  • if I ask you on a scale of 1 to 10

  • how happy you felt over the past two weeks, most of us

  • can kind of put ourselves on that spectrum.

  • We can put ourselves somewhere on that range.

  • What we found is that even though that's

  • a subjective experience, if I go into a hospital

  • with a broken arm, there's no pain meter they can hook me

  • up to that automatically means I'm experiencing an 8 out

  • of 10 on a pain scale, the same thing is true happiness.

  • We treat people based upon the pain

  • that they actually experience, and we can actually

  • study people based upon their subjective experience

  • of happiness that they're experiencing in the world.

  • Part of what I'm hoping to do and part of the reason I

  • wanted to come to talk with you is

  • that what I'd love for us to do is to help the world redefine

  • what happiness actually means.

  • Because I think that there's a lot of confusion about

  • what happiness actually is.

  • And if we do come up with a definition that's aspirational,

  • maybe we can start a movement not only within our schools

  • and in our families but in our companies worldwide.

  • There's a lot of articles that are coming out right now

  • talking about how having a happy life

  • and having a meaningful life that a meaningful life is

  • so much better than having a happy life in terms

  • of the levels of health you experience in the long run.

  • I think those studies, while well-meaning,

  • are actually leading us astray.

  • Because I think it's impossible for us

  • to sustain happiness without meaning.

  • And as soon as we start to try to define happiness in our life

  • without having meaning, all we're talking about

  • is pleasure.

  • And pleasure is very short-term, right?

  • We could put chocolate bars in front of each of you,

  • and then we'd be done in terms of our happiness.

  • Somebody's like, wait, was that an option this morning?

  • I didn't even know that that would be an option.

  • CHADE-MENG TAN: It's Google.

  • It's always an option.

  • SHAWN ACHOR: Exactly.

  • Exactly.

  • You've got pleasure at your fingertips,

  • but that doesn't necessarily mean that you automatically

  • have happiness at your fingertips.

  • Because happiness, the way that we

  • are hoping to start your redefine this for the world

  • is to not have happiness be pleasure,

  • because that's very short-term.

  • And we get addicted to

  • It.

  • We were talking about that this morning.

  • If happiness is just a pleasure, it becomes a trap, right?

  • So if I'm not feeling pleasure right now,

  • well, then I must not be happy.

  • Then I'm not going to keep working at this,

  • or I'm not going to keep trying, because this

  • is too difficult now.

  • What I'm interested in is how do we redefine happiness

  • to be-- I stole this definition from the ancient Greeks--

  • the joy that we feel striving for our potential?

  • And I love this definition.

  • I was at the Divinity School before getting

  • into studying positive psychology,

  • and I was studying Christian and Buddhist ethics.

  • Because I was interested in how does the beliefs

  • you have about the world change the actions

  • you decide to do within that world.

  • And one of the things that I loved about this definition

  • when I saw it is it changes the way that we pursue happiness.

  • Because if happiness is just pleasure,

  • we have to keep running after it very quickly,

  • and we know it's not going to last.

  • But if happiness is joy, joy is something

  • we can feel in the ups and downs of our life.

  • It's something we can experience even when things are not

  • pleasurable, when you're working on a very difficult project,

  • when you're going for a difficult run,

  • or when you're biking into and it's a really long bike

  • ride, whatever is it you're experiencing.

  • Even childbirth is not a pleasurable experience

  • all the time, but you can actually

  • feel joy in the midst of that.

  • What I want people to do is to recognize and to actually

  • seek out that joy, which I know is one of your pet projects

  • as well.

  • How do you see joy, but joy that's connected to growth?

  • Because if happiness is actually disconnected from growth,

  • it turns out we stagnate and our happiness

  • goes away pretty quickly.

  • I love playing video games.

  • I love them.

  • And they're very high levels of pleasure, and I'm OK at them.

  • But in terms of long-term meaning,

  • there's not too much for me in my life.

  • Now for some people, there's a lot of meaning in video games.

  • But for me, not so much.

  • So if I keep doing it, even though I'm having pleasure

  • that pleasure actually dissipates after a while,

  • because I'm not actually pursuing any of my potential

  • except within that one domain.

  • The thing I love about joy that we experience

  • striving towards our potential is

  • that potential could be anything.

  • It could be as an entrepreneur, as a business leader.

  • It could be as a lover, as a son, as a daughter,

  • as a human being.

  • And the more than we actually strive towards that potential,

  • that's where people experience that greater

  • levels of happiness, and it allows

  • us to stop making that disjunct between happiness and success.

  • Because I was out in Indonesia, and I was speaking out

  • at one of the factories there.

  • And one of the managers came up to me and said,

  • this talk on happiness might work at places like Google

  • or it might work in places in America,

  • but seriously actually our problem in our country is not

  • that people are unhappy work.

  • Our problem is sometimes people are way too happy.

  • Because I had this guy come into work three hours late today,

  • and I tried to yell at him, and he was like,

  • what are you doing?

  • Let's just relax and just enjoy ourselves.

  • And I was like, that guy didn't make me happy at all.

  • But what he's talking about there is not happiness, right?

  • That's short-term pleasure.

  • The guy decide to stay home that morning

  • and didn't do the work that he was supposed to be doing.

  • But if that's what it is, then long-term

  • his levels of happiness are actually going to decrease.

  • He's never going to get to see what his potential was

  • within that organization.

  • He might not get to see what his potential was

  • in terms of applying his self-control and his behavior

  • to his task.

  • So what we want people to do is to recognize

  • that that can be more on the side of apathy.

  • I think the opposite of happiness is not unhappiness.

  • The opposite of happiness is apathy,

  • which is the loss of joy that we feel within our lives.

  • Because if you think about it, unhappiness can sometimes

  • make us breakup with people we shouldn't be dating.

  • Or unhappiness can cause us to move to do different jobs,

  • or it can cause us to want to get better grades in school.

  • Unhappiness can be very helpful.

  • What I think becomes the problem is

  • when we've lost that joy in our life, when

  • we lose that joy striving towards our potential.

  • So I think that there's a revolution inside of us.

  • If we can help people realize that happiness is joy

  • that we feel on the way to our potential,

  • some amazing things start to change.

  • CHADE-MENG TAN: Fascinating.

  • It's especially fascinating in the context

  • of one of your teachings from your previous book,

  • which I thought was ground-breaking.

  • And when I first read it, I was really impressed.

  • In your previous book, which is "The Happiness Advantage,"

  • you talk about the relationship between happiness and success.

  • And you put it on its head, the reverse

  • of what everybody else was thinking.

  • SHAWN ACHOR: Yeah.

  • CHADE-MENG TAN: Which is everybody

  • was thinking that if you're successful, you're happy,

  • which is basically the premise of Asian parenting.

  • [AUDIENCE LAUGHING]

  • CHADE-MENG TAN: Right?

  • Trust me, I know.

  • But what you say, and I agree with you,

  • is that it's the reverse.

  • It's that happiness brings about success.

  • So can you talk more about that?

  • SHAWN ACHOR: Sure.

  • So you guys might have heard "The Battle Hymn of the Tiger

  • Mother" book that came out about tiger parenting, which

  • is the style of parenting you're describing,

  • which is I'm going to push you so far right now,

  • and you're going to hate me for it, but when you're successful,

  • when you're off at Harvard, Stanford,

  • when you've got a good job, then you're going to be happier.

  • CHADE-MENG TAN: Right.