19 December 2014

the perfect parent

I know, the perfect parent does not exist. But holy cow, this description comes as close to any I've seen, and I hope to one day be something like this father was to his kids.

From quora:

Lou DavisEmergency Department Sister, A... (more)
I'm going to tell you about my dad, he is the 'best' father ever (bar none!)

I am adopted. So the first great thing my dad did was to jump through the hoops that are part of the adoption process. That was tough (and humiliating - asked questions about really private things)

So that's the first thing you need to know, being a dad is really tough.

They had my brother first and, two years later, by a quirk of fate, the adoption society rang and said my mum and dad could have a baby girl that someone else had backed out of having. The problem was, they needed to get to the place by 5pm. But my mum was out, so my dad and his employees drove around looking for my mum and my brother.

So that's the second thing, tenacity and determination.

Then they had to wait 6 months before the papers were finalised, my dad sat in my room in a chair every night because he was frightened my birth mother would change her mind.

So, you have to be prepared to put up with discomfort.

It WAS finalised, I was theirs. But I was a very 'fragile' child, frightened of rejection (I still am!) but my dad never sighed or raised his eyes heavenwards. He would tell me I was beautiful (so you need to learn how to be kind)

And you need to be patient.

My dad used to tell me he wouldn't sell me for 'all of the money in the world and a five pound note!'

So you need to be able to provide comfort and reassurance.

My dad had a heart attack when he was 39, but he got better and he still played football with my brother and he used to run around with us.

So you have to be determined and you have to 'join in!' that was important to my brother and I.

My grandad had a stroke when I was young, my dad used to go 3 nights a week, straight after work, to put my grandad to bed,

And, in doing that, he taught me that family is important and that you sometimes need to help other people.

Occasionally, he would take me to school and I would ask him to write a letter excusing me from PE (physical education!) (ironic really, considering I'm a fanatical cyclist and do triathlon now!) And he would write the note.(and not tell my mum)

So, you might have to learn to be sneaky.

If I ever forgot my ingredients for cookery, I would phone my dad (by now a pretty high powered business man) and he would leave work to help me out (I was selfish I know but it shows that:-

You love your children more than anything.

When my first boyfriend and I separated, my dad told me that he had never liked him-

You support your children when times are tough.

After a serious illness (bacterial meningitis) I was rather depressed. My dad used to turn up, read the paper, make a cup of tea and then leave.

And he showed that a good dad can just sit and not say anything.

My dad listens to me moan, he gives me a handkerchief when I cry (and was wonderful when my first child was stillborn) He shares my joy when I laugh.
He is proud of my achievements.

It isn't about toys and things, it's about love and support always.

If you can be like my dad, your children will be as lucky as I have been.

I wish you happiness.

18 December 2014

the science of happier holidays

The Wall Street Journal, known for its economic, financial and business reporting, isn't the first place you'd think of for giving this advice, but it's well-timed and so relevant as we head into what is often a last-minute Christmas shopping frenzy. So, here's a fresh (and research-based) reminder to enjoy happier holidays for us all.

Thanksgiving and Gratitude: The Science of Happier Holidays

It’s easy to get caught up in the rush of materialism, which has been shown to undermine happiness. There’s a simple antidote: Practice gratitude

How can we avoid falling into the unhappiness trap of materialism this holiday season? One answer has been emerging from social science: Cultivate a mind-set of gratitude.ENLARGE
How can we avoid falling into the unhappiness trap of materialism this holiday season? One answer has been emerging from social science: Cultivate a mind-set of gratitude. GETTY IMAGES
As the holiday shopping season moves into high gear, it’s easy to get caught up in the rush of spending. But consider this conclusion from recent scientific research: Materialistic people are less happy than their peers. They experience fewer positive emotions, are less satisfied with life and suffer higher levels of anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.
Why is this the case—and how can we avoid falling into the unhappiness trap of materialism this holiday season?
One answer has been emerging from social science: Cultivate a mind-set of gratitude. Gratitude is proving to be about much more than the occasional “thank you.” Instead, the principles of Thanksgiving give rise to a unique way of seeing the world.
The latest evidence suggests that, rather than simply being about good manners, the emotion of gratitude might have deep roots in humans’ evolutionary history, sustaining the social bonds that are key not only to our happiness but also to our survival as a species.

25 November 2014

the ripple effect

Just in time for Thanksgiving, here's a sweet video that reminds of us the power of small kindnesses. Enjoy, and have a happy Thanksgiving!

22 November 2014

10 days without complaining or criticizing

The happify infographic had a little gratitude section that suggested not complaining or criticizing for ten days to see what happens, and my partner and I are giving it a try.

We were curious to know what the difference was between a negative observation and criticizing/complaining—are we unable to make any negative comments?

So, here are the definitions of complain and criticize, and it seems they do include what one could try to justify as a "negative observation."

1. to express dissatisfaction, pain, uneasiness, censure, resentment, or grief; find fault.
2. to tell of one's pains, ailments, etc.
3. to make a formal accusation.

1. to censure or find fault with.
2. to judge or discuss the merits and faults of.
3. to find fault; judge unfavorably or harshly.
4. to make judgments as to merits and faults.

We're hosting two Thanksgiving dinners, one with our coworkers, and one with our families, and it'll be great to talk about this exercise.

So, here's to day one. We'll see how this goes. Want to join us? It should be a powerful exercise.

20 November 2014

happy eating

With Thanksgiving around the corner, here's a great happify infographic on how to get the most out of your eating experience. Enjoy!

16 November 2014

write your way into peace and clarity of mind

Eric Barker has done it again. Here's how to write your way out of anxiety, tragedy or heartache in four steps.

How To Deal With Anxiety, Tragedy Or Heartache – 4 Steps From Research

  By Eric Barker

“You don’t remember me, but I was in your experiment a year ago. I just wanted to thank you. It changed my life.”
James Pennebaker has had a number of people say this to him over the years.
In the early 80’s he came across a study showing that people who experienced personal traumas but didn’t discuss them were more likely to get sick.
He wondered if just writing about their emotional upheavals could help people recover. And the research he did changed lives.
In the 30 years since, hundreds of studies have documented the effectiveness of expressive writing.
It helped with anxiety, tragedy, heartache… It even gave relief to those coping with cancer, heart disease, chronic pain, and AIDS.
People who write about their problems gain a host of benefits including feeling happier, sleeping better, and even getting better grades.
Across multiple studies, people who engage in expressive writing report feeling happier and less negative than they felt before writing. Similarly, reports of depressive symptoms, rumination, and general anxiety tend to drop in the weeks and months after writing about emotional upheavals (Lepore 1997). Other studies found improvement in overall well-being and improved cognitive functioning (Barclay & Skarlicki 2009).
I wanted to learn more, so I gave the man himself a call.
Jamie Pennebaker is a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of a number of books including:
In this post you’ll learn how writing can help you overcome emotional hardships and the best way to use it to help you get past tough times.
Let’s get started.

Can Just 20 Minutes of Writing Change Your Life?

Bottling up your problems is stressful. People who keep their struggles a secret go to the doctor 40% more often than those who don’t.
…among those who had traumas, those who kept their traumas secret went to physicians almost forty percent more often than those who openly talked about their traumas (Pennebaker & Susman 1988). Later research projects from multiple labs confirmed these results. Adults whose spouses had committed suicide or died suddenly in car accidents were healthier in the year following the death if they talked about the trauma than if they didn’t talk about it… Not talking about important issues in your life poses a significant health risk.
Some of us talk to friends or see a therapist when life gets hard. But not everyone.
It’s risky. Talking about your problems can mean feeling judged. You’re putting yourself on the line when you’re most vulnerable.
But writing lets you get many of the benefits of talking about your problems without the risk.
Here’s Jamie:
…in an ideal world, it works very similar to talking to a friend. The killer problem is when you talk to a friend or even a therapist, you’re putting yourself on the line. For it to work that other person has to be completely accepting, and the reality is we don’t tell our friends a lot of really deep and personal things because we think it might hurt the relationship. That’s the beauty of writing. You don’t have to worry about other people looking down on you or feeling nervous about putting yourself out there.

28 October 2014

isla del sol

Sometimes, when I'm wading through mountains of crumpled receipts and trying to get all of my bookkeeping organized, I become an angry person. Quickbooks may be good for some things, and doing your own bookkeeping is great for staying on top of everything, but sometimes, I just want to hurl everything over a windy cliff.

Which means it's a good time to remember Isla del Sol, a tiny island in the middle of Lake Titicaca in Bolivia. It has no cars, no paved roads, and the folklore says it's where the sun came from. (There is a nearby island, Isla de la Luna, where the moon is supposed to have originated.) Whether the legends are true or not doesn't matter too much; the island is covered in Incan ruins and truly has a magical feel to it. There were flowers I'd never seen before that seemed otherworldly.

But let's back up for a second. First, we bought tickets at the edge of Lake Titicaca in Copacabana:

Then, we went off to find the little boat down by the water:

Despite being half-Bolivian, my partner is a lot taller than the average Bolivian:

We waved goodbye to Copacabana:

It was a beautiful ride over, with clouds that looked like feathers:

Shimmering water and two tiny rock islands with one tree each (almost lined up perfectly here):

And a snow-capped mountain, for good measure:

I did a double-take, too, so in case you couldn't make it out, here's a closer shot:

A snow-capped mountain. Next to the island of the sun! It was a lovely surprise—a bit like our boat ride through some of New Zealand's fiords and across Lake Te Anau to see the glow worms in Te Anau.

When we arrived at the actual island, it immediately felt very different from Copacabana.

Copacabana felt like a huge, bustling metropolis in comparison.

Isla del Sol felt lush and peaceful and drenched in sunlight. How appropriate.

This could be their version of Stairway to Heaven:

The ruins were also very impressive.

 The people were pretty small back then.

We didn't get to go on a reed boat, but they're beautiful to behold, even from a distance.

And like our enchanted trip to Nantucket, even the weeds on Isla del Sol are beautiful. This yellow flower looks like the sun... 

Nice one, Isla del Sol.

22 October 2014

bouncy balls

We don't watch TV at home, but my daughter now knows two music videos and loves them. The first is the cello video below, and here is the second one. It's actually a commercial, but I think it's a beautiful work of art, and I love the song ("Hearts" by Jose Gonzalez), too. Enjoy!

13 October 2014


Good morning! Here's a beautiful video to start off your week.

Croatia has been one of my favorite countries for a decade now, and this video shows both the beautiful Plitvice Lakes and the talented Luka Šulić and Stjepan Hauser playing "I Will Wait" by Mumford & Sons. Enjoy.

11 October 2014

don't be the big elephant thinking you're the baby elephant

Here's a striking quora story from Dinesh Dharme:
Elephants in captivity are trained, at an early age, not to roam. One leg of a baby elephant is tied with a rope to a wooden post planted in the ground.
The rope confines the baby elephant to an area determined by the length of the rope. Initially the baby elephant tries to break free from the rope, but the rope is too strong.
The baby elephant "learns" that it can't break the rope.
When the elephant grows up and is strong, it could easily break the same rope. But because it "learned" that it couldn't break the rope when it was young, the adult elephant believes that it still can't break the rope, so it doesn't even try!
And here's another parable on quora from Graeme Shimmin:
There is an old story about two Greek islanders vying to become the strongest man on the island. 
One trainee bought a newborn calf. The other laughed at him. How could a calf help his rival train? But every day the wise trainee lifted it. Every day the calf got a little bigger and heavier but he could still lift it because it was only a little bit heavier than the previous day. After a year the wise trainee saw the calf was now a bull but he could still lift it. 
In the meantime the unwise trainee had tried every day to lift a bull. He had failed every time. 
So, don't be the big elephant thinking you're still a baby elephant, and don't worry if your rival laughs at you for lifting a newborn calf and keep on keeping on. :-)

06 October 2014

how to go from dreaming to doing

That last post was pretty floofy, so here is the research-backed counterargument to basically all of it. I especially like the If-Then part.

From Eric Barker:

How To Go From Dreaming To Doing: 4 Steps To Motivation

You have stuff you know you should be doing. But it doesn’t get done. You need to go from dreaming to doing — but it’s hard.
You want to accomplish more at work, hit the gym, get a new job or study harder at school… but it’s not happening.
I’ve talked about strategies to make challenges easier like the 20 second rule. But what if you’re just not starting in the first place?
What gets you going when you’re not motivated to reach those longer term goals?

05 October 2014

spirituality research: ask and it is given

I don't even know where I came across this book title, but I requested it from my library just to see if it would be interesting.

Ask and It Is Given by Esther and Jerry Hicks is probably too new agey for many of my intellectual friends, but I'm trying to be open to everything and learning what I can from it all.

So, the basic premise of this book is that your feelings are your compass-- if something feels good, then you are on the right track (because we are designed to be joyous creatures in this world), and if something makes you feel bad, you need to recalibrate (or recalculate, as our GPS always says).

Here is the scale of emotions:

1. Joy/Knowledge/Empowerment/Freedom/Love/Appreciation
2. Passion
3. Enthusiasm/Eagerness/Happiness
4. Positive Expectation/Belief
5. Optimism
6. Hopefulness
7. Contentment
8. Boredom
9. Pessimism
10. Frustration/Irritation/Impatience
11. "Overwhelment"
12. Disappointment
13. Doubt
14. Worry
15. Blame
16. Discouragement
17. Anger
18. Revenge
19. Hatred/Rage
20. Jealousy
21. Insecurity/Guilt/Unworthiness
22. Fear/Grief/Depression/Despair/Powerlessness

01 October 2014

how quickly life happens

This is a beautiful time-lapse of a girl from birth to fourteen in four minutes, and wow, it's such a vivid reminder of how quickly life happens.

It reminds me of a photography exhibit I saw once where a man took a photo of his wife each year, and as you followed the 8x10 shots, you saw her age year by year until she went from her 20s all the way through her 70s. It was amazing. I'd love to see a video like this of an entire life...


26 September 2014

spirituality research: help thanks wow

I'm writing a novel that deals with spirituality, and I've come across all kinds of interesting ideas and philosophies in my research. After reading the Tanakh, the Bible, the Qur'an, the Bhagavad Gita, Paths to God by Ram Dass, and the Satanic Bible (it's good to see a variety of perspectives), I started seeking out more modern texts to see what they had to say.

Beloved writer of writers, Anne Lamott, wrote Help Thanks Wow, "the three essential prayers," with her usual poetic language and vivid descriptions about her experience with religion and spirituality.

Her parents "worshipped at the church of the New York Times" and raised her to believe that people who prayed were ignorant, so when she prays (and she now prays many times a day), it's to "God" as shorthand for Love and Life and everything bigger than we can comprehend.

Do you have something that you can't quite figure out? Something you can't let go of? She has created a "God box," which can be any physical container that will be used to contain whatever is driving you crazy. Her prayer for this sounds something like this: "Here. You think you're so big? Fine. You deal with it. Although I have a few more excellent ideas on how best to proceed."

It's a great visual for the Help prayer, which is about letting go, recognizing "you have ruined things enough for the time being," and surrendering to whatever happens.

22 September 2014

what the words you choose communicate about you

One of my favorite bloggers, Eric Barker, was just featured in Time magazine with this great piece on what the words you choose say about you.

The best part? The 7-38-55 rule near the end-- which may say that words don't mean that much after all.

What do the words you use say about you?
A lot.
Your personality can be determined just by looking at the way you text message. You can make accurate judgments about your favorite author’s personality just by reading their work. You can probably tell a great deal about my personality from the words I use in my blog posts.
Word choice can predict whether you’re depressed, suicidal or lying. Swearing makes you more persuasive. It’s true, asshole:
…obscenity at the beginning or end of the speech significantly increased the persuasiveness of the speech and the perceived intensity of the speaker. Obscenity had no effect on speaker credibility.

05 September 2014

10% happier

Here's a concrete and well-researched post from one of my favorite bloggers, Erik Barker, on meditation and how it can make you 10% happier.

3 Simple Things That Will Make You 10% Happier

Eric Barker


Ever been really stressed? So stressed you nearly freak out?
This happened to Dan Harris… in front of 5 million people.
On June 7th, 2004, Dan was a news correspondent on ABC and he had a panic attack on air while reading the news:

He knew he had to do something. His career was in jeopardy.
By coincidence, he was soon assigned to cover stories about religion. This set Dan on a multi-year quest talking to people of faith — and total quacks.
But it ended up introducing him to something that helped him get his head straight and, as he likes to say, made him 10% happier.
What was it? Meditation.
Feeling skeptical yet? Thinking of hippies, beads and chanting? Actually, that’s how Dan felt too.
But it turns out his discovery wasn’t the least bit mystic — in fact it was quite scientific.
I gave Dan a call and we talked about meditation and the book he wrote about his journey: 10% Happier.
And here’s how the neuroscience behind a 2500 year old ritual can help all of us become 10% happier.

You Don’t Have To Be A Hippie And Live In A Yurt

Dan’s now the co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America.
What’s the first thing this Emmy-award winning journalist has to say about meditation? It has a huge PR problem.
Meditation suffers from a towering PR problem, largely because its most prominent proponents talk as if they have a perpetual pan flute accompaniment. If you can get past the cultural baggage, though, what you’ll find is that meditation is simply exercise for your brain. It’s a proven technique for preventing the voice in your head from leading you around by the nose… There’s even science to back this up.

28 August 2014

so, you want to move to LA and become an actor...

I interviewed a potential barista today who I convinced to go after her dreams instead of pursue a job in my coffee shop. So, if you're also itching to try your hand at acting in LA, here's the same unsolicited advice I offered her:
Good for you. It takes a lot of courage to go after one's dreams, and I wish you luck and joy as you bravely venture forth to pursue acting in LA.
Here's some unsolicited advice from someone who was there and what I wish I knew when I arrived, naive and idealistic. (Note: these are just my opinions, and I don't benefit from any of these recommendations.)
- Find good people. They are out there. Spend time with people who make you feel good and who make you better.
- Don't ever pay anyone until they make you money-- that goes for agents, managers, etc.
- Don't go into debt. It's tempting to run after the superficial labels of success, to dine in the fancy restaurants, to blow money on expensive nights out. But don't fall for it! Live beneath your means, and you'll never be a slave to money.
- Stay focused on your goals, but also remember to take care of your soul and your body. Go to the beach. Take a hike. LA is a dry, concrete city, but it is also full of beautiful nature if you look for it.
- There are many acting schools in the city, and one I loved was the Joanne Baron/DW Brown Studio, which offers a respected two-year acting program and is an amazing place to hone your craft and meet other like-minded (i.e., crazy) aspiring actors. Seriously, though, you can't be late, you can't miss class, you're not supposed to date your classmates, and there's no nudity in class. Instead, you'll work hard and connect with others who are serious about their craft.
- Samuel French is a little bookstore that will be a great place to start researching everything related to acting.
- There are also a million (approximately) headshot photographers in LA, and my favorite was David LaPorte. I liked him so much, I even hired him to take my wedding photos (which he never does... but was nice enough to do for me anyway). He is also a great resource for all things related to the industry, and I trust him completely.
- Be grateful and say thank you for the smallest of favors. It's a town built on relationships, so be nice, humble and gracious to everyone at all times. As they say, the foot you step on today may be connected to the ass you're supposed to kiss tomorrow.
- Most importantly, have fun. Enjoy the struggle. Follow your heart. And put yourself out there.
Feel free to ask for help or advice as you move forward. I'm always happy to help.

19 August 2014

what happy families have in common

Eric Barker does great research. Here's yet another insightful one.

6 Things The Happiest Families All Have In Common AUGUST 17, 2014 by 

Family life is hectic. Most of us play it by ear and hope it works out well.
Or maybe you haven’t started a family yet but when you do you want to do itright.
Aren’t there some legit answers out there about what creates the happiest families? Yes, there are.
To get the facts I called Bruce Feiler, author of the New York Times bestseller,The Secrets of Happy Families.
When writing his book, Bruce knew there were answers already out there — but not necessarily where we’d expect.
He found solutions to common family problems in business theory, Harvard negotiation techniques, and even by talking to Green Berets.
Below you’ll learn:
  1. The #1 predictor of your child’s emotional well-being.
  2. The #1 predictor of their academic achievement — and behavior problems.
  3. And the simple thing that steers kids away from drugs, toward better grades and even improves their self-esteem. And more.
Here’s what makes strong, happy families:

1) Create A Family Mission Statement

I asked Bruce what he would recommend if he could only give one piece of advice.
He said: “Set aside time to talk about what it means to be a part of your family.”
Ask: “What are your family values?” In business-speak: Develop a mission statement for your family.

16 August 2014

what money cannot buy

I love this story from quora. Enjoy.

Life: What's the thing that money cannot buy?
James AltucherJames AltucherBlogger, author...
Joseph Heller wrote the massive bestseller, Catch-22 about World War II. I recommend anyone read the book but that's not what this answer is about. 

Later in his life Heller went to a party in the Hamptons. Mostly young hedge fund guys at the party. 

While he was at the party, someone came up to him and pointed out some 25 year old guy. "You see that guy over there?" the someone said. "That guy made more money last year than all of your books will make in your entire lifetime, times ten." 

Joseph Heller looked at the 25 year old guy then said. "But I have one thing that that man will never have." 

His friend gave a sort of scoff and said, "What could that possibly be?" 

And Joseph Heller said, "Enough."

14 August 2014

daily routines of highly productive people

This is a great response I came across on quora, and I hope you also gain some insight from it.

James AltucherJames AltucherBlogger, author, social media,... (more) 
I don't know if I'm very productive. I take naps during the day. Sometimes I start businesses that fail. I often go down paths that lead to dead ends. 

At the same time, I'm on the board of some very successful companies. I'm a successful investor. I write a lot. I have a top podcast. 

I look at my calendar for next week and everything I'm doing is something I love doing. It took me a long time to build up to this level of productivity but that's because I wasn't doing so well the things I list below. 

Most important: I love my wife and I think she loves me. Sometimes I don't know if she loves me. Perhaps my most unproductive time is when I am wondering if she loves me. 

I also get annoyed at my kids sometimes. This is very unproductive. Like, if one is late and I'm just sitting in the car. But I have a trick for making that time in my life productive as long as I'm not yelling at her or getting angry. 

Anger is never productive. Some people are foolish and think that anger drives them forward but it doesn't. Anger stabs at your heart and then your heart closes. You need your heart to be open. 

How come? Because neurons transmit messages from your gut to your heart to your head. Everything needs to be open so your neurochemicals transmit messages effeciently.

So the first question is: what is productive? 

I like to be in love with people and my favorite hobbies. Then I like to be successful at those things. And all other times I like to be sleeping or thinking of nothing. 

That is success for me. 

What are side effects of success? Kissing and sex and smiling. Some laughing. Talking to people who make me think. Reading about interesting things. 

Feeling that fire-like feeling in my chest when I'm doing something I'm proud of. And money is a side-effect. Note that money is not a goal. 

Having money as a goal makes it very hard to make money. Money is a side effect of the daily routine I am about to tell you. 

These are all just side effects. And they are all happening in my life right now. 


First off, I'm going to love you today. I picture you, the reader, and I'm in love with you. I'm grateful you are reading this. This makes a flood of oxytocin trigger in my brain so I can keep writing this and I'm happy doing it. 

12 August 2014

5 easy ways to help others (and give yourself a happiness boost)

Even though research says helping others is one of the main ways to achieve happiness, it seems too easy to say "I'm too busy to help others." So, here are a few suggestions from happify on how to help others without much effort or time.

The 5 Easiest Ways to Give Others (and Yourself) a Happiness Boost

By Jessica Cassity
Little things matter: even the smallest gestures add up to big happiness gains.

give others happiness
Hundreds of studies have found that actively helping people does good things for the psyches of all involved. By going out of your way to bring dinner to an overworked friend, pay for someone else's highway toll, or otherwise lend a hand, you get a positive brain boost and so does the person you helped.
But Paul Zak, PhD, a neuroeconomist and a professor at Claremont Graduate University, says even less tangible acts of kindness can make the giver—and especially the recipient—feel good. These small deeds require minimal effort on your part but are often experienced just as deeply—or even more so—than many of the run-of-the-mill things people do to be good to one another.
Here are five of Dr. Zak's favorite ways to give the people in his life a little happiness boost (while reaping some of those same feel-good benefits for himself!). See which ones work best for you.

1. Ask “How can I be of service to you?”

Zak repeats this phrase in just about every meeting he attends. Doing so makes your collaborators feel supported and heard, which is especially important around the workplace. This also gives your colleagues a chance to air concerns and ask for any additional help they might need. Of course, this phrase can be used with anyone at any time. If a friend or family member is going through a transition or a busier than usual period—such as welcoming a new baby—a check-in like this will be much appreciated.