Category Archives: Happiness

Memorable Phrases

Source: Medium, Feb 2020

  1. “I was thinking about you.”
    if you are thinking about someone — let them know. The best part about this phrase is that it’s true. Every day we think about other people and telling them when we are can only strengthen a relationship.

  2. “What do you think?”
    “I’m curious about your experience with W.” “Can you tell me more about Z?” “I’d love to get your opinion on Y.” “Can I get your advice on Z?”

    Most people love to share their experiences. They love to talk about their lessons learned. They love to know that their voice is respected and people appreciate their perspective. So when speaking to someone about a topic that is clearly important to them, ask them to share their thoughts. It’s a guaranteed way of making people think highly of you. Plus, friendships rarely fizzle out if you are making an effort to learn about the other person’s thoughts, feelings, and ideas.

  3. “I love the way you see the world.”
    I don’t know about you, but I love to be told that I’m interesting. “Every time I’m with you I learn something new.” “That’s interesting. I never thought of it like that before.” These phrases send me flying.  Give them a shot for yourself. The next time someone tells you something interesting fire back by telling them how interesting they are. Few phrases make people feel more special than the words “I love the way you think.”
  4. “I followed your advice.”
    people love it when people listen to them. But they really love it when they are told that they have been helpful and their words have made a positive effect on someone else’s life.

High School Student Finds a New Planet

Source: NASA, Jan 2020

In 2019, when Wolf Cukier finished his junior year at Scarsdale High School in New York, he joined NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, as a summer intern. His job was to examine variations in star brightness captured by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and uploaded to the Planet Hunters TESS citizen science project.

“I was looking through the data for everything the volunteers had flagged as an eclipsing binary, a system where two stars circle around each other and from our view eclipse each other every orbit,” Cukier said. “About three days into my internship, I saw a signal from a system called TOI 1338. At first I thought it was a stellar eclipse, but the timing was wrong. It turned out to be a planet.”

TOI 1338 b (black dot) is silhouetted by its host stars

Charming Helps!

Source: Medium, Jan 2020

Bring The Positive Energy

Here’s the first key to being charming: you have to make other people want to talk to you… and that means that you want to be open and welcoming.

People who are charming are people who make us feel good. They make us feel like they understand us, value us and think we’re awesome. They’re nonjudgmental, empathetic and caring. They’re the sort of people you feel like you could rely on when the chips are down because they’re just that kind of person.

So how does one convey warmth to others?

To start with, you want to smile. A broad, genuine smile that reaches the eyes — the famous Duchene smile — is a way of making yourself instantly seem friendlier and more approachable. It also forces you to feel happier and friendlier in a nice bit of biofeedback; by making yourself feel more friendly, you will come across as friendlier and more likable.

You want to make sure to be as positive as possible. You don’t have to be a wide-eyed optimist, but we are instinctively drawn to people who are happier. Happy people give energy to the room and make others feel good.

Build The Emotional Connections

The next key to being charming is to build the emotional chemistry by finding commonalities with the person you’re talking to. Charming people have the ability to make us feel as though we’ve known them forever — even if we’ve only just met them thirty minutes ago. They bring an easy sense of familiarity and intimacy that we don’t often feel with other people, especially with people we’ve only just met… but it feels so natural that we never think about it.

In fact, one researcher found that it was possible to build an incredibly intense emotional connection — one stronger than even some long-term friendships — in the span of an hour.

The key to building this emotional intensity comes from sharing personal emotional information with one another.

You want to share emotional truths that illustrate some of what makes you who you are. One of the easiest ways to do this is through the Question Game– taking turns asking meaningful questions of one another. Those questions like “what would a perfect day look like to you”? They may sound cheesy… but they’re the ones that elicit the emotional truths and help forge those surprisingly deep and intimate connections that make us feel so close to someone we’ve just met.

So you may want to ask something like “What would you do if you could do anything with no chance of failure?” or even just sharing an embarrassing — but amusing — incident in your life. The key is that you want to allow yourself to be vulnerable; being charming means letting others feel as though they’re getting insight into you that few other people may get.

Just be sure to leaven it with humor. After all…

Funny is Sexy

As I’ve said many times before, there’s a reason why women rank a sense of humor so highly when they’re listing what they find attractive in men. In fact, some researchers believe that there’s a direct correlation between being able to make a woman laugh and her level of sexual or romantic interest.

The most charming people out there have excellent senses of humor. Some are droll and witty, others are self-deprecating, while yet others are brash, even borderline offensive… and we love them for it.

So why is humor so important to charm? It’s the way that it makes people feel.

Charm is all about making the other person feel good in your presence. Laughter releases muscle tension in the body, leaving you feeling relaxed calm while also releasing endorphins in the brain. If you’re able to make a woman laugh, you’re able to make her feel good… and she’s going to associate that feeling with being in your presence.

A good sense of humor is also a reliable indicator of intelligence; after all, most humor — even puns — is intellectual in nature. Even pratfalls and low-brow humor require a strong sense of comedic timing and being able to gauge the social appropriateness of the situation. Plus: being able to understand the proper time and place for different forms of humor is a sign of finely tuned social calibration.

Develop Your Presence

The final part of charm is to utilize your presence. We often talk about people who feel larger than life, or who have us riveted. These people have presence.

We like people who like us… and the ability to make you feel liked is one of the keys of being charming. Charming people have a way of making you feel like the most important person in the world. They give you their full attention and give you the impression that not only are they hanging on your every word, they’re finding absolutely everything you have to say fascinating.

The first and most important way of using presence is simply to give someone your full attention.

The next way that you develop presence is to indicate that you’re actually paying attention. There are many ways of doing this — countless non-verbal signs like nodding your head and “go on, I’m listening” sounds, for example — but the most powerful is to be an active listener.

Making a point to ask questions about the things that she’s telling you, especially if you use her choice of words or phrasing, makes it abundantly clear that not only are you paying attention but that you’re making a point to engage with her, not just passively absorbing her words like a sponge. Even just repeating the last couple of words back in an intrigued, questioning tone can build and signal your interest in what she has to say.

Productivity Matters

Source: Scott Young blog, Dec 2019

Productivity is a measure of your output divided by your input.

Output is measured by the importance of the accomplishment to your goals.

A person who outputs lots of unimportant stuff is still unproductive. Importance, not sheer volume, is how output ought to be measured.

Input is measured by the time, energy and attention you have available.

Sometimes this translates to speed. Other times it translates to ease or sustainability. Big impact, given your limited capacity, is the goal of productivity.

Zuckerberg, Cowen & Collison Conversation on Progress

Source: Medium, Nov 2019

The meta question we’re really interested in is how does progress happen, how do we discover useful knowledge, how is that diffused, and how can we do it better?

if you have a growth rate that is 1 percentage point lower, over the course of a bit more than a century, you could have been three times richer with a higher growth rate

…by having a lower rate of productivity growth, in no given year does it feel that bad, but two, three generations later, you’re much worse off, it’s harder to pay off your debts, harder to solve climate change, harder to address a whole host of problems.

an important question for anybody interested in this area to think about is, well, how should we define progress? And what are the better and worse kinds of it.

Emergent Ventures is a new kind of philanthropy. There’s one layer of yes or no. People are encouraged to apply. If the payoff is 30, 40 years down the road, the attitude is, “Great.” Take a lot of chances. Worry about getting some winners and some risk and not expect the median project to be something that necessarily looks good when taken to a board.

That’s the niche that we felt through CZI that we can help to fill: instead of investing a million dollars in a lab, put $100 million or a couple hundred million dollars over time into building up really important scientific assets for the community. Like helping to fund scientists to go put together this Human Cell Atlas. Think about it as like the periodic table of elements but for biology — all the different kinds of cells in the human body.

The goal is just, if you look throughout the history of science, at least, most major scientific breakthroughs have been preceded by the invention of new tools that help people look at things in different ways. And so the theory is similar to what you’re going at of how you increase the compounding rate of progress.

I’m curious how you think about, in terms of studying this, how much this is like this history and history of science based on data that’s already out there versus “we should just try different models of things and encourage more creativity and more competition and try different things.”

It’s striking to me, if you look at American universities, the list of the top places in 1920 and the list today — it’s completely the same, except we’ve added on California. Otherwise, no change.

Procedures for tenure in the top 50 research universities — almost exactly the same. Whatever you think of those, there’s something gone wrong in the sector. There’s not enough experimentation with how you reward people.

I think we should be historically informed but ultimately, a certain amount of commitment, decision, and just willingness to experiment is going to be required.

Do you have a framework in your head for how would think about or prioritize study in different areas, or is it mostly just about finding really sharp people who have new ideas and funding them to do different kinds or work? How do you think about that overall?

COWEN: People who are curious. People who have bold ambitions. People who have what I call stamina — they just don’t even stop. People who are working in productive small groups that maybe through WhatsApp, in fact, or it could be their next door neighbors, their colleagues at a university.

UCKERBERG: Got it. So it’s very much like entrepreneurship in that way. You’re betting on the person more than the idea —

COWEN: But also the vision, right? There has to be a vision, and there are plenty of successful entrepreneurs who are not curious. So for intellectual progress, to really put curiosity very highly is part of my philosophy.

COLLISON: Yeah, tool building is not really subsidized or supported that well.

ZUCKERBERG: Yeah if you want to have a team of ongoing software engineers, you’re going to want an effort that’s going on for a while and that’s more than a couple of people. So kind of thing, I think, there’s a real niche that no one is doing that stuff at the scale it needs to get done. So just pushing on both of things.

COLLISON: Yeah, and there’s uniform agreement on that particular point with every biomedical scientist that I speak with. Tool-building is under-supported.

These aren’t things that are primarily gonna benefit us, right? If we were trying to benefit us, we wouldn’t be working on education. I think the health work is very long-term oriented. If we were focused on our own health, you’d be probably be doing more disease-specific work rather than fundamental science — or tool-building for fundamental science — which might even be a level more abstract that fundamental science to try to compound the rate of progress in science.

This conversation is interesting because I think it highlights somewhat of a distinction in — I guess my approach to learning or studying these things is more the “try different things and experiment” and then play it forward, generate new data that doesn’t exist and see how that goes.

And talking to you and seeing the work that you do, and I guess this is probably intrinsic to being an academic too, where more of the work is about looking at datasets that can exist and studying what is already there rather than trying to create the new datasets or approaches. There are two approaches that I think complement each other but are actually quite different in terms of how you approach learning about how to do the best work going forward.

or any of these really important questions about how should science be organized, or which kinds of policies generate the most economic growth, or how one should support the diffusion of innovation, or whatever — I don’t think there exists definitive data on that question. I don’t think by just going deep into the literature you’re going come up with clear answers that one can feel confident in going and executing it or implementing. I think of the data, such that it exists, and the exiting findings as food for hypothesis-generation.

Sharansky: Free vs Fear Societies

Source: Age of the Sage, date indeterminate

Sharansky sets out by dividing the world between “free” and “fear” societies. Then he employs a simple test to discern a free society from a society based on fear: Can one enter a public square and express any opinion without fear of being arrested? If not, one is in a society that runs on fear.

Then, he describes the mechanics of fear societies, focusing on three basic groups: true believers, doublethinkers, and dissidents.

Sharansky uses personal anecdotes to demonstrate what these categories mean, and to describe, for readers who have lived only in free societies, the experience of living in a fear society. He admits that he was, like most of the Soviet population, a doublethinker, constantly performing a balancing act between his true feelings and his public feelings. As a child, he privately celebrated Stalin’s death, and then joined the public expressions of mourning and praise.

Only those adept at reading these mechanics, Sharansky warns, can tell the true believers from the doublethinkers. Most outsiders mistakenly accept the popularity of despotic states because these regimes spend great effort trying to conceal the difference between their true believers and doublethinkers.

The failure to see the difference between the two, however, is not just a question of political acumen, it is a question of moral clarity.

Sharansky then analyzes the inherent instability of fear societies.

Their leaders lack popular support, and, over time, they lose true believers. So the regime must work harder to hold onto power.

To prop itself up, the regime needs an external enemy, who serves a dual, if not contradictory, purpose. Because the fear society stifles creative thought, it lacks scientific and technological progress, and so must mimic those of its rival. It also uses the rival as the scapegoat for its own political malaise.

By contrast, governments of free societies are accountable to the will of the people and the laws of their country. A democratic leader who pursues a reckless agenda cannot do so indefinitely.

” understand a critical difference between the world of fear and the world of freedom. In the former, the primary challenge is finding the inner strength to confront evil. In the latter, the primary challenge is finding the moral clarity to see evil. “

Luxury Beliefs – the latest Status Symbols for the Upper-Class

Source: NY Post, Aug 2019

In the past, upper-class Americans used to display their social status with luxury goods. Today, they do it with luxury beliefs.

People care a lot about social status. In fact, research indicates that respect and admiration from our peers are even more important than money for our sense of well-being.

We feel pressure to display our status in new ways. This is why fashionable clothing always changes. But as trendy clothes and other products become more accessible and affordable, there is increasingly less status attached to luxury goods.

The upper classes have found a clever solution to this problem: luxury beliefs. These are ideas and opinions that confer status on the rich at very little cost, while taking a toll on the lower class.

One example of luxury belief is that all family structures are equal. This is not true. Evidence is clear that families with two married parents are the most beneficial for young children. And yet, affluent, educated people raised by two married parents are more likely than others to believe monogamy is outdated, marriage is a sham or that all families are the same.

This luxury belief contributed to the erosion of the family. Today, the marriage rates of affluent Americans are nearly the same as they were in the 1960s. But working-class people are far less likely to get married. Furthermore, out-of-wedlock birthrates are more than 10 times higher than they were in 1960, mostly among the poor and working class. Affluent people seldom have kids out of wedlock but are more likely than others to express the luxury belief that doing so is of no consequence.

White privilege is the luxury belief that took me the longest to understand, because I grew up around poor whites. Often members of the upper-class claim that racial disparities stem from inherent advantages held by whites. Yet Asian Americans are more educated, have higher earnings and live longer than whites. Affluent whites are the most enthusiastic about the idea of white privilege, yet they are the least likely to incur any costs for promoting that belief. Rather, they raise their social standing by talking about their privilege.

In other words, upper-class whites gain status by talking about their high status. When laws are enacted to combat white privilege, it won’t be the privileged whites who are harmed. Poor whites will bear the brunt.

… like with diamond rings or designer clothes of old, upper-class people don a luxury belief to separate themselves from the lower class. These beliefs, in turn, produce real, tangible consequences for disadvantaged people, further widening the divide. Just as fashionable clothing will soon be outdated, so will today’s fashionable beliefs. In the future, expect the upper class to defame even more values — including ones they hold dear — in their quest to gain top-dog status.

Related Resource: Quillette, Nov 2019

The economist and social theorist Thomas Sowell once said that activism is “a way for useless people to feel important, even if the consequences of their activism are counterproductive for those they claim to be helping and damaging to the fabric of society as a whole.