Archive for June, 2006

About a month ago I made a post about this book I was going to buy about the science of happiness.

Unlike most things that I say I am going to do, I actually did this one and am about 100 pages or so into it.

He makes an interesting analogy about optical illusions and our ability to predict our own happiness.

We largely trust what we see, yet with optical illusions our eyes fool us. That isn’t so much the problem as the fact that even after we know that our eyes are fooling us…..we can’t stop ourselves from seeing it. We’ll be fooled every single time, forever.

Well….it turns out our brain plays its own version of optical illusions with our memories and imagination. And even if we know the rules (which the book outlines) we will still consistently misjudge how we felt about the past, and what we will feel about the future. And like optical illusions, we’ll keep making the mistake even if we know about it.

So….if I will always have limited success at predicting today what actions to take to make my future self happy…..perhaps I should read a book on brainwashing? I’ll hypontize myself into thinking I’m happy. I wonder if that works?

Another point he makes is that there is no such thing as “someone who says they’re happy but actually isn’t; they just don’t realize what happiness really is.” Although it isn’t quite so straightforward, in the new science of happiness, for the most part, if someone reports they are happy, we have to take their word for it…….what other recourse do we have?

If I can just convince myself that I am happy, then it won’t matter so much which poor choices I make with respect to my future happiness. I don’t buy so much the “stupid, but happy” hypothesis anyway. I think if you were to ask those who are described as “stupid, but happy” their response would be, “Really?? I’m stupid for being happy? I think you’ve got it mixed up. Does intelligence then make you sad? If so, what good is being smart?”

More to come on this….after I get around to reading the rest of the book (which I was warned in the preface will not teach me any secrets to being happy).

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I’m writing this from work on a Sunday. Without going into the boring details of my job, I will explain that I gave two folks a difficult project with an uncertain outcome but high potential for upside if it works out. It has been hard to provide guidance for them, because I don’t know the answer either. If I did I would certainly tell them how to do it.

I left them alone on it for the most part, since it doesn’t seem right to press on something you’re not sure can work in the first place…..but for about two weeks now they have made pretty much no progress.

I had a meeting with them last friday to talk about what they were doing, what approach they were taking, how they were organizing, what they’d learned, etc…….and found out they were pretty much defeated. They hung their heads while they were talking, had a pouty look on their face, and kept bringing up all the reasons it would never work. And then we would talk for a while about approaches to take but it always got back to them shrugging their shoulders and saying how fruitless the attempt was.

I truly don’t understand that attitude. I think its an interesting project…..anyone can do something that’s already been done, and there is a proven course to take. Its much funner to look at something and go, “What the fuck am I going to do next? I haven’t the slightest idea.” It is so rewarding when you finally do something that other people didn’t think was possible.

I remember the last summer I worked at camp there was this guy that would come and tell the kids this story about how he came to invent this strange game called Zoogle because of a disability that prevented him from playing the games other kids did. The gist is that you threw this padded tube back and forth and could only touch a certain part of it, and there was a scoring system to go along with it. It was actually a really fun, simple game.

Since he invented the game, he was obviously very good at it. In fact part of his story about Zoogle was that he’d never been beaten…ever. Then he would invite someone from the audience to play him in front of everyone and, of course, soundly whip them. He told of how he’d beaten Arnold Schwarzenegger, President Reagan, Shaquille O’Neal, etc, etc.

That sounded like a challenge to me. He came every summer and no one had ever beaten him. I was pretty good, so I played him once at the beginning of the summer and he won easily. That didn’t mean he couldn’t be beaten though. I just wasn’t good enough yet.

So I started training….literally. I told everyone at camp I was going to beat that chump when he came back. I dissected that game. I thought of all the different ways to throw, experimented with new techniques, developed a methodology…..turned the game into a sport. I would handicap myself by only playing with one hand, or playing hopping on one leg. I was a zoogle-ninja.

He also came second session a few weeks after he’d first beaten me and I refused to play him again, because I wasn’t ready yet….still training. I did go watch him make his speech to the kids though……so I could see him play and study what he did.

To make a long story short, I did win at the end of the summer. I beat the handicapped Zoogleman at a game he invented for no other reason except the challenge of doing what no one else had done.

So what does that have to do with anything?

Here I am back at office on a Sunday doing someone else’s work simply because they say it can’t be done. I think I need therapy.

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I don’t usually post anything that could be of actual use, but I ran across this airfare website that beats anything I’ve ever seen.

I haven’t bought anything on it yet, but I love the way it shows you all the places you can go, how much it is, and how much it has been so you can see if the prices are going up or down.

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