TED talk: Keep your chin up

In this talk, the fast talking and cheerful Shawn Achor begins by pointing out social science’s obsession with “normal.” After taking a look at the DSM IV a few years ago, it became clear that the goal was to classify as many things as possible as psychological orders. When I began my own study of ADHD I also discovered that the majority of psychologist had no interest in helping those with ADHD harness their skills and find ways of using their odd cognition to their benefit – the goal was to completely transform the way their brain works through medication. They wanted people to be “normal.”

Achor argues that this obsession with the ”average” person will lead to average performance. Instead we should be focusing on the outliers (rather than eliminating them from our data pools) and finding out what makes them so exceptional. The question should not be how fast does the average child read, but how fast could a child read.

He makes the case that the lens through which we view the world shapes our reality. It has little to do with our external world. I watched a documentary a few weeks ago called Happiness that came to exactly the same conclusion. Many studies have verified that above a certain income level, additional income brings little pleasure.

His first main point is to de-link success and happiness. Success is not happiness. Each time we succeed we simply move the goal post. He talks about how, after going to Harvard, he saw students go from elation (after they were admitted) to quite pessimistic (complaining about workload, feeling insecure after meeting other smart people, ect).

Rather than happiness coming from what we have accomplished he argues the opposite - that happiness actually breeds success. He highlights the negative aspects of stress (which often come when we push ourselves too hard) and their detrimental biological effects (ex. increases in cortisol). He talks about the positive role dopamine plays in learning.

In order to improve our disposition he suggests several ideas (and try to do them for at least three weeks so they become habit):

  •  List three acts of gratitude
  • Journaling about positive life events
  • Exercise
  •  Meditation (as a response to cultural ADHD/multi-tasking)
  • Random acts of kindness

In my little moleskin book I used to record moments that really made me happy. I enjoyed adding to that list. I should resurrect it. I saw on FB a buddy who wanted to do one random act of kindness each day. I should hold him accountable and share in his stories. 

These things would be much more likely to happen with a little more structure in my life. I should at least add a few reminders to my phone so that I am reminded to do them on a regular basis. 

Here is my positive experience for the day: I saw an old cobbler in the arcade mall along Main st. I didn't have any cash last week but made a note to go back. I got there, predictably, just before he closed today. He was an old black man, probably in his 60's. He said he had been there for 37 years. It was a small shop. About the size of a large walk in closet. You could tell he had been there for 37 years. It was kind of dark with a few incandescent bulbs. There was dust all over. It kind of reminded me of the inside of a shoe. It was very cozy and worn in. Anyway, I had a pair of nice loafers I'd purchased a while back from a thrift store and they needed a little attention. He began by rubbing them with an oil covered rag to restore the dry and somewhat cracked leather. He then added stain to the leather and a darker color to the edge of the soles. Next came the wax which he rubbed in to seal and protect them from the water and dirt they would ecounter. Finally he placed one of the shoes between his legs, pulled the rag over it taught and then buffed it in. Then came the boar's head brush to make the wax shine and glow. They were still a little dark from the oil when I left but that has already faded. All that for $3. I tipped him an extra dollar. I slid back into the loafers, wooden heels clicking down the marble hallways as I made my way back to the office.  

Three things I am grateful for. 
  • That I am able to work out. My co-worker injured his back and has been hobbling around on pain killers for 45 days. He said his muscles are starting to atrophy. He said his life was really starting to suck. I hope he gets better soon. 
  • The weather isn't too bad here. I look out and still see blue skies, birds, some green leaves and no snow. I walked down Main St today. 
  • That I have healthy, mostly white teeth. Last night I had an awful dream that my teeth had cracked and were falling out.