The Happiness Advantage: Escaping the Cult of the Average

Excerpt from The Happiness Advantage

The graph below (see Figure 1) may seem boring, but it is the very reason I wake up excited every morning. (Clearly, I live a very exciting life.) It is also the basis of the research underlying this book. This is a scatter-plot diagram. Each dot represents an individual, and each axis represents some variable.

This particular diagram could be plotting anything: weight in relation to height, sleep in relation to energy, happiness in relation to success, and so on. If we got this data back as researchers, we would be thrilled because very clearly there is a trend going on here, and that means that we can get published, which in the academic world is all that really matters. The fact that there is one weird red dot – what we call an outlier – up above the curve is no problem. It’s no problem because we can just delete it. We can delete it because it’s clearly a measurement error – and we know that it’s an error because it’s screwing up our data.

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About the Author

Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, spent over a decade at Harvard University where he won numerous distinguished teaching awards for his work. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and earned a Masters from Harvard Divinity School in Christian and Buddhist ethics. In 2006, he was Head Teaching Fellow for ‘Positive Psychology,’ the most popular course at Harvard at the time. In 2007, Shawn founded Good Think Inc. to share his research with a wider population. When the global economy collapsed in 2008, Shawn was immediately called in as an expert by the world’s largest banks to help restart forward progress. Subsequently, Shawn has spoken in 45 countries to a wide variety of audiences: bankers on Wall Street, students in Dubai, CEOs in Zimbabwe. Shawn’s research on happiness and human potential have received attention from the Harvard Business Review, New York Times, Forbes, CNN, and NPR. To read Shawn Anchor’s full biography, click here.

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