TED Talks to Make You Smile

Smiling and laughing with someone in any setting engages dynamics which creates bonds and interpersonal connections.
My article, “The Benefits and Pitfalls of Humor in the Bargaining Room,” addresses this subject in more detail. If you are interested in reading more, please email me for a copy robertcreo@happyeffectivelawyer.org.

The Master Mediator, The Benefits and Pitfalls of Humor in the Bargaining Room, 36 CPR Alternatives 1(6) (Jan 2018).

The following TED Talks were compiled by Chris Heivly, Crack a Smile After Listening To These 5 Silly TED Talks, Inc., (Apr. 18, 2017). TED Talks and descriptions from www.ted.com.

How to Tie Your Shoes
Terry Moore found out he’d been tying his shoes the wrong way his whole life. In the spirit of TED, he takes the stage to share a better way.

How to Use a Paper Towel
You use paper towels to dry your hands every day, but chances are, you’re doing it wrong. In this enlightening and funny short talk, Joe Smith reveals the trick to perfect paper towel technique.

Play is More than Just Fun
A pioneer in research on play, Dr. Stuart Brown says humor, games, roughhousing, flirtation, and fantasy are more than just fun. Plenty of play in childhood makes for happy, smart adults – and keeping it up can make up smarter at any age.


Where in the World is Happiness?

According to the 2018 World Happiness Report, the same countries are in the top ten as they were in the 2017 World Happiness Report, with Finland now topping the list. These are in order:

  • Finland
  • Norway
  • Denmark
  • Iceland
  • Switzerland
  • Netherlands
  • Canada
  • New Zealand
  • Sweden
  • Australia

The report showed a decline in American happiness that pointed to a social crisis as opposed to an economic crisis. The downward drop in the United States continued and now ranks 18,  down from number 14 in 2017 and 13 in 2016.

The report pays special attention to the social foundations of happiness for individuals and nations. It starts with global and regional charts showing the distribution of answers from approximately 3,000 respondents in each of more than 156 countries, up from 150 countries.

The 2018 report also measures 117 countries by the happiness of its immigrants.  Finland ranks highest in this category also, with the rankings closely following the general ranking with the exception of Mexico being number 10, displacing the Netherlands from the top ten as it drops to the 11th rank.   The United States, with an immigrant population of 15%, ranks 15th right behind Austria at 14th, Ireland at 13th, and Israel at 12th.

The top ten countries have remained the same as last year although some have switched places. Six key variables are surveyed for happiness, each of which digs into a different aspect of life.

These six factors are GDP per capita, healthy years of life expectancy, social support (as measured by having someone to count on in times of trouble), trust (as measured by a perceived absence of corruption in government and business), perceived freedom to make life decisions, and generosity (as measured by recent donations). All of the top ten countries rank high in all six of these factors.


Happiness Leads to Success?

Once upon a time, (circa 1973-74), I spent two summers working at the Homestead Works of United States Steel as a laborer and helper. Although we were only temporary help, we were hired on the same as permanent workers with the same schedules, pay, benefits, and responsibilities. My initial attitude was to put in my time there mindlessly and mentally separate it as only “working” which is distinct from “living life.” Living involved meaning, success, or fun, while working was wasted or dead time.
By the end of a few weeks as a steelworker, I had learned so much from my co-workers. Their work was more than a job. I can now frame it as an identity involving pride of craftsmanship, of being the bread-winner for a family, and as contributing for the benefit of the community and the common good. A respected lead-person, Cyclone, explained it to me this way: “What we do matters because our steel is the foundation of bridges, battleships, skyscrapers, automobiles, and manufacturing plants. None of this happens without us at the front end.” One of my take-aways is that how much of what we do mattering is dependent on our attitude. For a young man, part of me was forged alongside the steel amidst the heat, noise, and grit of the Homestead Works of United States Steel.

In over 40 years as a lawyer, I relied upon the lessons learned about the importance of making your best efforts at your own job or task-at-hand. I lament the fact that so many lawyers are unhappy in their chosen profession or feel trapped by meaningless work. My goal is to help improve the daily lot of lawyers so we can all “whistle while we work.” To me that is a good definition of success.

The past 3 years I have researched and studied the relationship between happiness and success while at work. There is an overwhelming body of evidence that there is more than a correlation, but a cause-effect cycle with some contending that the happiness comes first. See the summary of the research study below.

Rather than attempting to answer the age-old riddle of what came first, the chicken or the egg, energy is best spent on promoting practices and habits which enhance job satisfaction and meaningful work. Daily tasks, especially for professionals like lawyers, are going to be diverse and vary in the level of challenge to cognitive and problem solving abilities. Ultimately, there is a larger goal or objective being advanced and the smaller, and often routine or boring functions, are necessary links in the chain. One approach is to treat these in a stoical way . . . complete the chore without fuss. This was a lesson I learned not in law school, but from the steelworkers of Western Pennsylvania.

The Study

The follow contains excerpts from S. Lyubomirsky, L. King & E. Diener, The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success? 131 Psychological Bulletin 803-855 (2005). (View Study)

There is a strong relationship between success and happiness. But the question is which comes first, happiness or success?

While psychological research tends to talk about success leading to happiness, there is also plenty of evidence showing that happiness can also lead to success. Some evidence comes from experimental studies that induce participants into positive and negative moods and then compare their behaviors in certain situations.

This correlation is important because many times people will focus on success thinking that it will lead to happiness and while trying to become successful, they ignore their happiness in the moment. This evidence, shows that people should pursue success but not to the exclusion of happiness.


Happy While Working?

I believe that people should look forward to going to work–the proverbial “whistle while you work” of the Disney song from Snow White! This differs from the concept of work-life balance which implies to me that you can be miserable at work providing your are finding happy moments while not working.  To obtain peak performance in your work, the science shows that it is important to focus on your mood and stress factors and your work habits.

The following contains an excerpt from Harrison Barnes, You Need to Enjoy What You Are Doing, available on his blog at  www.hb.org (Jul 19, 2016). 

One of the greatest lessons you can ever learn is that you shouldn’t be doing anything you don’t enjoy. You should enjoy getting up for your job each day. You should like the work you do and be so interested in it you think about it at night. You should like the people around you and should never do anything you don’t truly love and enjoy. There is nothing wrong with suffering though certain classes when you’re in school and there’s nothing wrong with doing certain types of grunt work; however, you really shouldn’t be doing something you do not enjoy.”  He continues by stating that “regardless of how stupid you think what you enjoy doing is, the chances are you can make a very good living doing it if you really get passionate about it.”

I don’t believe anyone, especially professionals, need to be passionate about the tasks and duties of their day, all the time. This is especially true of lawyers where so much time is routine or spend on procedural or administrative matters.  Lawyers, however, need to be engaged with the tasks and recognize that the micro tasks move the macro goals forward to the benefit of the clients or the public. 

What is a reasonable goal for the amount of a lawyer’s workweek they should expect to feel happy, content or satisfied?

Finding Calm When Integrating Work and Life

My concern is that lawyers and other professionals are being unintentionally misled by the pursuit of work-life balance as the solution to professional dissatisfaction and discontent.  Work can be structured to be engaging and performed with excellence while experiencing satisfaction and contentment.

Clarissa Rayward’s article “Why Work Life Balance Didn’t Bring Me Happiness (And It Probably Won’t Work For You!),” offers some tips on finding calm when trying to integrate work and life:

  • “When it comes to our thoughts, the key is to be present wherever you are.”
  • “[W]hen you are distracted, stressed or worried, just stop, be still and take 3 long slow breaths.”
  • “When it comes to our actions, we need to be aware of just how we are using our time. We all have exactly the same number of minutes, hours and days in a week, but we can all choose how to use them.”
  • “Be aware of how you are spending your time – if you say ‘yes’ to something you are saying ‘no’ to something else so be clear on the things that you want in your life – take control of them and make them your priority.”
  • “Try letting go of ‘balance’ and instead aim for ‘now’.”

Lawyers do need balance by enjoying activities outside of work and having friendships and meaningful family time.  This does not mean that lawyers are unable to find satisfaction in daily tasks.