To survive, Danny and Esther both needed new hearts but to truly live, they needed sweethearts too.
“Shawn, why do you waste your time studying happiness at Harvard? Seriously, what does a Harvard student possibly have to be unhappy about?”
Embedded within that question is the key to understanding the science of happiness. Because what that question assumes is that our external world is predictive of our happiness levels, when in reality, if I know everything about your external world, I can only predict 10 percent of your long-term happiness. 90 percent of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes the world. And if we change it, if we change our formula for happiness and success, what we can do is change the way that we can then affect reality. What we found is that only 25 percent of job successes are predicted by I.Q. 75 percent of job successes are predicted by your optimism levels, your social support and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat.
The fact that there’s one weird red dot that’s up above the curve, there’s one weirdo in the room — I know who you are, I saw you earlier — that’s no problem. That’s no problem, as most of you know, because I can just delete that dot. I can delete that dot because that’s clearly a measurement error. And we know that’s a measurement error because it’s messing up my data.
So one of the very first things we teach people in economics and statistics and business and psychology courses is how, in a statistically valid way, do we eliminate the weirdos. How do we eliminate the outliers so we can find the line of best fit?
But if I’m interested in potential, if I’m interested in your potential, or for happiness or productivity or energy or creativity, what we’re doing is we’re creating the cult of the average with science.
If I asked a question like, “How fast can a child learn how to read in a classroom?” scientists change the answer to “How fast does the average child learn how to read in that classroom?” and then we tailor the class right towards the average.
If we study what is merely average, we will remain merely average. Then instead of deleting those positive outliers, what I intentionally do is come into a population like this one and say, why? Why is it that some of you are so high above the curve in terms of your intellectual ability, athletic ability, musical ability, creativity, energy levels, your resiliency in the face of challenge, your sense of humor? Whatever it is, instead of deleting you, what I want to do is study you. Because maybe we can glean information — not just how to move people up to the average, but how we can move the entire average up in our companies and schools worldwide.
See what we’re finding is it’s not necessarily the reality that shapes us, but the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality. And if we can change the lens, not only can we change your happiness, we can change every single educational and business outcome at the same time.
Judge: Is there a reason you came out on “Super Star K” (to sing)?
Jung Hoon Kim: To be honest, my parents don’t like the fact that I sing. Both my parents are deaf. Mom lost her hearing when she was very young due to a fever. Dad lost his hearing due to an accident when he was 7. My mother suffers from thyroid cancer. And my father suffers from colorectal cancer. I thought to myself, why is this happening to my parents? It felt like the world was falling apart.
Parents: Although we can’t hear him when he sings, but when we see him, we know he can succeed. No matter if he sings good or bad, we believe in our son.