“The only thing that matters is what you choose to be now”
Po from Kung Fu Panda
The number 2 film on my “all time most watched” list is Kung Fu Panda 2. It was my daughter’s favourite during many of our travels together over the last decade. It is a film that had something for a young girl and something for her father.
We begin with Po, the Kung Fu Panda, frustrated with his life and feeling lost. Over the course of 90 minutes, Po learns to accept who he is and find inner peace.
Any guesses on the film I have watched most in my entire life? Check out this comment on the blog post for the answer!
What is the activity that you could do for €10 that would give you the most happiness over 1 hour? for €100? for €1000? for €10,000?
This video is from Dublin. My dad makes an appearance. Some scenes from the Ireland vs Argentina rugby, and from Trinity College and at UCD Smurfit Business Schools where I was teaching during the week.
University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman categorised hundreds of people into three groups based on how they pursued happiness:
The Pleasant Life: People in pursuit of the Pleasant Life seek happiness by looking for pleasure. They are good at savouring the moment and making their pleasures last.
The Engaged Life: People in pursuit of the Engaged Life seek happiness by working hard at their passions. They can immerse themselves so deeply in their passion that they sometimes come across as cold and uncaring of the needs of others.
The Meaningful Life: People in pursuit of the Meaningful Life use their strengths to work toward something they feel contributes to a better world.
Warning for those who seek Pleasure
Seligman found that people who pursued the Pleasant Life experienced little happiness, while those who pursued the Meaningful Life and the Engaged Life were very happy.
Raul Aguirre recently reminded me of the ideas of Dr John DeMartini on the Pleasant Life path: “We attract into our lives the opposites of what we seek”. To seek to avoid pain, is to invite pain in. To seek to avoid problems, is to invite problems in.
Which Path are you on?
Update: Raul has provided more detail of the life paths
Lawrence Kolhberg worked on levels of morality: he defined three stages of moral development. At LV*, we operate al Level 1 (the most primitive, seeking reward and avoiding punishment).
*LV is “Lower Values”, a Dr John DeMartini term for a life that is not dedicated to your personal HV – highest values. When our life is coherent with our purpose and Highest Value (we don’t have to do much work to find it, just pay attention to where things flow easily for us) then all of our activity moves to a more inspired level of consciousness.
Level 1 (Pre-Conventional)
1. Obedience and punishment orientation (How can I avoid punishment?)
2. Self-interest orientation (What’s in it for me?) (Paying for a benefit)
Level 2 (Conventional)
3. Interpersonal accord and conformity (Social norms) (The good boy/girl attitude)
4. Authority and social-order maintaining orientation (Law and order morality)
Level 3 (Post-Conventional)
5. Social contract orientation (Laws that do not promote the general welfare should be changed when necessary to meet “the greatest good for the greatest number of people.”)
6. Universal ethical principles (Principled conscience) (Laws are valid only insofar as they are grounded in justice, and a commitment to justice carries with it an obligation to disobey unjust laws.)
When your friend tells you about his new mobile phone and you are about to tell him about your new mobile phone… instead “tell me more…”
When your friend tells you about the great safari holiday that she has just returned from and you are about to say “I did a safari back in 2001″… instead “tell me more…”
My friend Florian Mueck hates what he calls “The 1-Uppers”. I tell a story of running a 10k… the 1-upper says “I ran a marathon”. I tell a story of hiking for 4 days… the 1-upper says “I hiked for 6 days” I tell a story of having a blog post read by 1000 people… the 1-upper says “I had a blog post read by 10,000 people”.
Imagine looking back at the age of 75 and realising that you chose the wrong thing to live for? Realising that all those years of work and sacrifice were for something that you now do not value?
Living to Please Elizabeth
Over at the excellent Art of Manliness blog there is a recent post about Walter Raleigh. He was of the best of his age: smart, connected, quick-witted and strong. He sought a life of fame and fortune.
He decided that pleasing Queen Elizabeth was the path to success. He sacrificed time with his family, sold himself short on his own values… anything to keep pleasing the Queen. He found riches and fame for a time…
Eventually Elizabeth tired of him and had him thrown into The Tower of London. He never left the tower.
The Razor’s Edge tells the story of Larry, an American pilot deeply changed by his experiences in World War I. Larry rejects the conventional, safe path that awaits him and lives in search of meaning.
He is surrounded by 5 main characters: Isobel, Gray, Elliot, Sophie and Maugham himself (who is both author and a central character in the book).
Isobel seeks financial security. Although deeply in love, she breaks her engagement to Larry once she sees that he will not follow the path of financial security. She marries Gray, a millionaire stockbroker and heir to a fortune. She sacrifices love for money. Gray will go on to lose his fortune.
Elliot wants to be part of aristocratic society. He will do anything to be invited to the right parties and will sacrifice anything in order to be around people with titles. As he lies dying, not a single one of his aristocratic friends makes the trip to visit him. Elliot dies alone.
Sophie drifts into Larry’s life. She has fallen into alcohol and promiscuity after her family life fell apart. Larry tries to save her, but triggers Isobel’s jealousy. Sophie is alcohol-free with Larry, but Isobel tempts her back with a bottle of vodka. One bottle triggers a collapse into complete alcoholism.
Maugham ends suggesting that all the characters got what they desired: “Elliott achieved social eminence, Isabel achieved a secure position, Sophie, death, and Larry found happiness.”
What are you searching for? You will find it.
* Photo of The Razor’s Edge – Source Wikimedia under Fair use
As the director of a 75-year-old study on adult development, Waldinger has unprecedented access to data on true happiness and satisfaction. In this talk, he shares three important lessons learned from the study as well as some practical, old-as-the-hills wisdom on how to build a fulfilling, long life.
Why is it hard?
We often look for quick fixes. There are no relationship quick fixes. Relationships take lifelong, constant effort. You must actively work to keep the important relationships in your life strong.
What does leaning in to relationships look like? Do something new together. Reach out to the family regularly. Listen and share. Reach out without reason to friends. Pick up the phone and meet.
It is imagination that makes humans unique in nature.
Genetically we differ 2% from chimpanzees and 3% from worms. It is not our genes that have us living in penthouses and connecting on facebook.
Our difference is the human cortex, the layer of brain that is most highly developed in humans. The cortex is where we begin to live intentionally. We have a choice. We don’t have to just respond to the world, but can begin to imagine a better world and thus plan and act accordingly.
The unique gift of humanity is reason, the ability to solve problems in the mind.
What is the Purpose of Human Life?
2,300 years ago in the Greek city-state of Athens, Aristotle asked himself “what is the purpose of human life?” Aristotle defined the purpose of an object as being that which it can uniquely do.
A human is alive – but plants are also alive – so that cannot be human purpose.
A human feels – but animals also feel – so that cannot be human purpose.
The unique gift of humanity is reason, the ability to solve problems in the mind: to imagine solutions before putting them into practice.
Aristotle concludes the Nicomachean Ethics with a discussion of the highest form of happiness: a life of intellectual contemplation. Reasoned imagination is the highest virtue.
Leadership Requires Imagination
A leader must see a future that is not yet here. The clearer you can see and touch and feel this potential future the more compellingly you can communicate it to others. The more you practice your imagination, the better you will get. How can you practice your imagination?
How can you develop your imagination? Here are some ways:
Spend time bored.
Read fiction. Write a new ending to a classic book. Make a hero into a villain, and a hero into a villain. Write yourself into the book.
Throw photos on the floor and then explain the connection between them.
Watch TV in another language and explain to a friend what is happening.
List 10 small improvements you could make to the seat you are sitting on.
Tell bedtime stories to your children… let them create the characters as you go.
Develop 2×2 matrix on an area of interest… and develop scenarios for changing positions.
Go to an ethnic restaurant and order something you have never had before.
Go to a railroad station or airport and take the first train or plane to depart.
Imagine a world without oil, cars, telephones, internet… fill in the blank…
Communities are Conservative, Business is Progressive
There is an inherent conflict between communities and companies. Communities (family, neighbourhood, tradition) try to maintain stability. Companies are driven by the nature of the capitalism market system to innovate and change. (See Schumpeter’s “creative destruction” on wikipedia) .
Stability vs Destruction
Companies close their factories and replace deeply experienced craft men with young computer geeks who can build the model inside a CAD/CAM system. Companies move accounts payable from outside of town, to outside of the continent and 25 middle managers who have spent 25 years working in accounts no longer have a workplace to go to. The community is hit by this loss of incomes and hope.
What is the right balance between Creative Destruction (Capitalism) and Stability (Community)?
This may be a moot question – Creative Destruction is an international, intercontinental force. A community has little power to decide “we will step outside of this cycle”.
Europe is facing this on a brutal scale. These two forces are pulling the euro project in many directions, testing political will, raising emotions. Karl Marx predicted that capitalist society would come to this point – debasement of the money supply (otherwise known as Quantitative Easing), greater and greater proportion of profit going to the owners of capital (not labour), monopolistic tendency in industries. His view was that capitalism would inevitably collapse under its own success.
Community has provided the softening balance that has kept capitalism from collapsing under its own successes. However we face an intense conflict. We don’t have free markets, we have crony capitalism. The banks that should have failed, were not allowed to fail. The bankers at the center of the capitalism disaster turned to community to save themselves – and community did.
Capitalism is needed to innovate, but Community is needed to soften the harsh blows and to save capitalism from its own failings.
Changing and Caring
Entrepreneurship is needed in society, in public service, in schooling as much as it is needed in business. The modern world needs a continual updating mechanism – otherwise our nation will be left behind. We have found no other comparable mechanism than the market to continually improve products, services and people (evolution is a sort of market mechanism).
Society needs a balancing function. The brutal consequences of competition – loss of jobs, loss of value of skills, unemployment, increasing cost of debt servicing… need people who can support us in tough moments.
This conflict is always going to be there. Society wants stability. Global markets force change.
How can society cope with the ever increasing speed of global change? What happens when companies innovate fast? How can we help communities accommodate the increased pace of change?
It is Messy, isn’t it
I don’t have any simple answers. I am currently taking the course “Moral Foundations of Political Systems” on Coursera with Yale Professor Ian Shapiro. Over the past 5 weeks we have moved through Enlightenment, to Utilitarianism, to Marxism and this week onto Social Contract theory. I love several moments in the course where Shapiro asks a simple question to the partipants… they give a go at what seems a simple enough question… and then he smiles and says “it is messy, isn’t it. You can’t take the politics out of human decisions.”