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Friday, January 26, 2018

Yes, it is proven, you absolutely CAN BUY HAPPINESS... and here's how.

You can, you really can buy happi-

There are no tricks or gimmicks. It can cost nothing or almost nothing--that's up to you. And best yet, it has a positive spin that goes beyond just you.

Behavioral scientists have discovered though, that money isn't the currency... dollars may lead to a lessening of sadness, but happiness is not materially for sale.

There is a history of lottery winners showing, for many, a loss of friends, social placement, extravagance and ruin that a sudden infusion of millions of dollars can cause, because winning the lottery is everything material. (I'd still like to take my chances though, but the catch--you have to buy a ticket.)  

The quality of close relationships with family and friends, the blessing of health and satisfying work or hobbies are the big deals for happiness and they come with no tariff. It is the small, day-to-day stuff that can benefit a disposition on the spot, no matter where you are on your 'happiness scale.' It's like a no-cal piece of chocolate or slice of pie alamode if that's your thing. THAT happiness, you can buy... if you know how.

Michael Norton, a professor of  Business Administration at Harvard Business School, has found a real-life way to buy happiness with positive results. Here he is on TEDTalks . If you have 10 minutes, It is worth your time.

For you busy folks, here's what he showed:

Doing studies in a number of venues, from Vancouver to third world Africa, and in different ways, he basically asked random people how happy they were at that moment, expressed in a number from 1 to 10. Many said  6, 7 or 8. Then he gave each participant an envelope containing anywhere from $5 to $50. Each envelope asked the recipient to use the money that day. Some were told the money was theirs to keep, no strings attached. Some were told they must use the money benevolently on someone else, and some were given a choice to keep the money or give it away.

Of those who kept the money, they typically just put in in their pocket or purse, bought a Starbucks coffee or just used it as part their cash. Those who were told to give it away gave it to street entertainers, someone they saw seemingly needy or benevolently in any other way.

The almost universal worldwide results (only The Congo was different), showed those who kept the money for themselves still rated themselves at the same happiness number. Those who were benevolent almost universally rated themselves one number greater on their happiness scale.

Moreover, Norton wondered what would happen if he gave dollars, under the same circumstances, to a basketball or dodge ball team (which he actually did) or an office sales staff or to some other like group. You really have to watch his talk for the full effect, but in virtually every case, the benevolent recipients' use of the gift (donuts for the office, new sweat bands for the team, for example) performed better... universally. The sales team sold more that its test counterpart that kept the cash, the benevolent teams dramatically improved their records, etc.

Personally, I once stood behind a young father ordering breakfast for his family at McDonald's. When he heard his order would cost $18.75, he told the cashier that he had left his wallet in the car and had to go get it. I watched him go outside to his wife and small children waiting for breakfast. He got into the car and had a moment's conversation with his wife. He  shrugged his shoulders and shook his head, then drove off. I realized he didn't have the cash. I was sadly so sorry I didn't recognize the need and pay for his food that my happiness scale dipped two numbers. Opportunity to buy happiness missed. I hurt for a while after that.

It is dramatic what spending money for someone's benefit or need can do for your personal happiness. And it really is that easy. It IS BETTER to give than receive and that happiness plays out in simple or complex ways to the recipients as well as the donors.

Try it yourself. Give someone you perceive may need a lift, a few bucks and watch what happens to the recipient... and see what it feels like to you. It's such a easy gesture to be--in ways big or small--benevolent.  And, as Norton's experiments showed, it doesn't take much to make a difference. It pays dividends in life. And really, don't we always need more things that make us feel good?

Is there a richer story to that point than O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi, a worthy read in any season?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A QUIZ: Who has the best selling album in history and which Golden Record is a cinch to beat it by a million miles if only... ?

No, it's not him, though I can't imagine why not.

I can tell you though, the upstart that will ultimately out-distant eveything ever recorded and is filled with "Golden Oldies" and has a lock on a vast, untapped market that is guaranteed to 'rock your socks!'

Hint: It features Johnny B. Goode (as in Back to the Future), written and performed by Chuck Berry. And that is ironic, as it is in the future that this will/might break all records by a million miles, literally.

Got the answer? Here's the play list:

  • Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F. First Movement, Munich Bach Orchestra, Karl Richter, conductor. 4:40
  • Java, court gamelan, "Kinds of Flowers," recorded by Robert Brown. 4:43
  • Senegal, percussion, recorded by Charles Duvelle. 2:08
  • Zaire, Pygmy girls' initiation song, recorded by Colin Turnbull. 0:56
  • Australia, Aborigine songs, "Morning Star" and "Devil Bird," recorded by Sandra LeBrun Holmes. 1:26
  • Mexico, "El Cascabel," performed by Lorenzo Barcelata and the Mariachi México. 3:14
  • "Johnny B. Goode," written and performed by Chuck Berry. 2:38
  • New Guinea, men's house song, recorded by Robert MacLennan. 1:20
  • Japan, shakuhachi, "Tsuru No Sugomori" ("Crane's Nest,") performed by Goro Yamaguchi. 4:51
  • Bach, "Gavotte en rondeaux" from the Partita No. 3 in E major for Violin, performed by Arthur Grumiaux. 2:55
  • Mozart, The Magic Flute, Queen of the Night aria, no. 14. Edda Moser, soprano. Bavarian State Opera, Munich, Wolfgang Sawallisch, conductor. 2:55
  • Georgian S.S.R., chorus, "Tchakrulo," collected by Radio Moscow. 2:18
  • Peru, panpipes and drum, collected by Casa de la Cultura, Lima. 0:52
  • "Melancholy Blues," performed by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Seven. 3:05
  • Azerbaijan S.S.R., bagpipes, recorded by Radio Moscow. 2:30
  • Stravinsky, Rite of Spring, Sacrificial Dance, Columbia Symphony Orchestra, Igor Stravinsky, conductor. 4:35
  • Bach, The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2, Prelude and Fugue in C, No.1. Glenn Gould, piano. 4:48
  • Beethoven, Fifth Symphony, First Movement, the Philharmonia Orchestra, Otto Klemperer, conductor. 7:20
  • Bulgaria, "Izlel je Delyo Hagdutin," sung by Valya Balkanska. 4:59
  • Navajo Indians, Night Chant, recorded by Willard Rhodes. 0:57
  • Holborne, Paueans, Galliards, Almains and Other Short Aeirs, "The Fairie Round," performed by David Munrow and the Early Music Consort of London. 1:17
  • Solomon Islands, panpipes, collected by the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Service. 1:12
  • Peru, wedding song, recorded by John Cohen. 0:38
  • China, ch'in, "Flowing Streams," performed by Kuan P'ing-hu. 7:37
  • India, raga, "Jaat Kahan Ho," sung by Surshri Kesar Bai Kerkar. 3:30
  • "Dark Was the Night," written and performed by Blind Willie Johnson. 3:15
  • Beethoven, String Quartet No. 13 in B flat, Opus 130, Cavatina, performed by Budapest String Quartet. 6:31 
Got it yet? Of course, it is NASA's Golden Record... the two-disk album  aboard spacecrafts Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, rocketing as we talk (read) out of our solar system into unknown space to possibly reach another civilization in perhaps, several billion light years or so. And word of mouth in the record industry is that these people... er, aliens, are really hip and buy records like crazy. Besides, that is where Michael Jackson may now be living... I mean dead... er, living dead.

But wait! Buy this record and get free, greetings in every known language on earth (really). And That's not all! If you buy now, you also get 115 classic images that show how we live on this planet. Order in just two billion light years, and we'll also give you the all the sounds of earth... jackhammers, musical instruments, farts... no not farts, and more. If you are an alien and haven't yet invented a record player? We'll throw that in absolutely free!

And, folks on earth, you too can get in on this great deal. Those golden discs have been reproduced in human scale (CD-ROM) so you can buy your set (really) on Amazon (of course) and a number of other places. Also available in many public libraries (really again).

"The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced spacefaring civilizations in interstellar space." Carl Sagan (also dead)

PS: The Beatles actually sold the most earth copies... but you just wait!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Believe it or not, every one of us needs a porpoise. (OK, I really mean Purpose, not Porpoise, but I couldn't find a good picture of a Purpose.)

Each of us needs a purpose in life. 

"So tell me something I don't know."

Okay, I will:

Research has proven that the nuanced will to live---something most of us take for granted, like breathing--is more vital to our health and well being than we have recognized. Better yet, it is within our power to control, with amazing, life-rewarding benefits.

The corollary to living is often listed as a cause of death for many older: Failure to thrive.

In a New York Times article, Finding Purpose for a Good Life, But Also a Healthy One, by Dhruv Khullar, says that diagnosis's bold preposition implies "humans, in their natural state, are meant to thrive."

Khullar cites the evidence that leads him to the conclusion: "Having a purpose isn't about finding the meaning of life, but but building meaning into your life."

"My patient, however," Khullar adds, "was not in his natural state. Cancer had claimed nearly every organ in his body. He'd lost a quarter of his body mass. I worried his ribs would crack under the weight of my stethoscope.

" 'You know,' he told me the evening I admitted him, 'A few years ago, I wouldn't have cared if I made it. Take me God, I would've said. What good am I doing here anyway? But now you have to save me. Sadie needs me.' "
Sadie is his cat

"He'd struggled with depression most of his life, he said. Strangely enough, it seemed to him, he was
most at peace while caring for his mother when she had Parkinson's, but she died years ago. Since then, he had felt aimless, without a sense of purpose, until Sadie wandered into his life."

Not surprisingly, sharing life and love with a pet is a common purpose with responsibilities in itself.

Studies have found that only one of four of us have a recognized sense of purpose that makes life more meaningful. About the rest, half of us see ourselves neutral or without purpose.

Research indicates that having a specific purpose, even if unrecognized as such, decreases one's risk of dementia and has a positive influence or controlling depression, neuroticism, socioeconomic status and chronic disease. Those with a greater sense of purpose were 2.4 times less likely to develop Alzheimer's or minor cognitive problems.

Moreover, Khullar continued, "of  6,000 studied individuals followed over 14 years, it was found that those with a greater purpose were 15 percent less likely to die than those in their group who were less driven... and that having a purpose was protective across the life span--for people in their 20s as well as those in their 70s."

One remarkable study compared the effect of group therapy for patients with metastatic cancer.

One "support focused" group met weekly and discussed things like "the need for support" 'coping with medical tests," and "communicating with providers."

Another "meaning-centered" group focused instead on spiritual and existential questions like, "meaning before and after cancer," "What made us who we are today," and "Things we have done and want to do in the future." This group of patients experienced fewer physical symptoms, had a higher quality of life, felt less hopeless--and were more likely to want to keep living.

In a study of teen age volunteers--those who chose to help elementary students with homework, cooking, sports or arts and crafts verses a group that was put on a wait list without such a project--those actively involved students had lower levels of inflammation, better cholesterol profiles, a lower body mass index and grew in empathy and altruism That group also showed the largest reductions in cardiovascular risk.

In every scientifically designed study, the benefits of a purpose-filled life resulted in higher self-esteem with more social connections, better mobility and stamina.

The author's final truth: "Finding purpose is rarely an epiphany, nor is it something you pick up at the mall or download from the app store. It can be a long, arduous process that requires introspection and conversation, then a commitment to act. And (my interjection) is worth gold.

Or, if this is all to complicated, check out Monty Python's The Meaning of Life.  That'll do it for you.