2021-02-17 HR Examiner article John Sumser happiness advantage shawn achor encounter stock photo img cc0 by michael dam mEZ3PoFGs k unsplash text edit 544px.jpg

“Achor’s talk was powerful precisely because it melded easy-to-understand ideas with scientific research. By the end of the talk, the audience was charged up, the social media pipelines were full of positivity, and contagious smiling was on display.” - John Sumser


On Happiness, A Surprising Encounter with Shawn Achor


Happiness Breeds Happiness


Mirror neurons are a part of our bodies that allow human experiences to flow from one person to another. The same neurons fire when a human being performs an action or sees it performed. This remarkable bit of neuropsychology is at the root of a rethinking of humanness driven by deep scientific research.


I wasn’t expecting much the first time I saw Shawn Achor and heard him explain this. Little by little, Achor’s amazing delivery and research from his book, The Happiness Advantage, drew me in.


We’re wired to transmit information from brain to brain. And, we can reprogram the fundamentals. He was the most popular teacher at Harvard during his tenure and he’s still a Harvard researcher today where his focus remains on happiness and its use as a competitive advantage.


Photo of Shawn Achor on HRExaminer.com

Shawn Achor

BIO: Shawn Achor
After spending twelve years at Harvard University, Shawn Achor has become one of the world’s leading experts on the connection between happiness and success. His research on mindset made the cover of Harvard Business Review, his TED talk is one of the most popular of all time with over 13 million views, and his lecture airing on PBS has been seen by millions. Shawn has lectured or worked with over a third of the Fortune 100 companies, as well as the NFL, the NBA, the Pentagon, and the White House. Shawn is the author of New York Times best-selling books The Happiness Advantage (2010) and Big Potential (2018). He has now lectured in more than 50 countries speaking to CEOs in China, doctors in Dubai, schoolchildren in South Africa, and farmers in Zimbabwe. His Happiness Advantage training is one of the largest and most successful positive psychology corporate training programs in the world. Shawn’s research has been published in the top psychology journal for work he did at UBS in partnership with Yale University to transform how stress impacts the body, and he recently did a two-hour interview with Oprah at her house to discuss his mission to bring positive psychology to the world.


Achor is the son of a Texas neurosurgeon. Years in the Ivy Leagues have dusted the accent away but the toothy smile and self-effacing humor you expect from a Texan shone through. He kept the audience laughing as he hammered home powerful ideas:

 2021-02-17 HR Examiner photo img Shawn Achor book Big Potential 3d book 200x249px.jpg

  • Reality is caused by the way you view it. Not by the way it is.
  • Emotional tone is contagious.
  • Habits of thought persist.
  • It’s a really good idea to change the way you think on a regular basis (and hard to do)
  • Happiness is a choice and not a choice.
  • By choosing to be happy, you can increase the happiness of others
  • The best way to change someone else is by changing yourself.

 photo of book by Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage on HRExaminer.com article by John Sumser

There’s nothing astonishing about these ideas. They are so common-sensical that nearly everyone forgets them. Achor’s talk was powerful precisely because it melded easy to understand ideas with scientific research. By the end of the talk, the audience was charged up, the social media pipelines were full of positivity and contagious smiling was on display. This is the how and why of selecting a speaker who starts your event.


Today, one must begin the consideration of speakers by understanding that whatever they say will be tweeted and converted into micro-quotes embedded inside images for Instagram and generally recycled faster than other news. What once was a contained experience limited to the faithful believers who turn up at users’ conferences is now a global communications moment. The talk was streamed, commented on and repurposed.


In the hour I spent listening to his talk I had a suprisingly happy encounter with Shawn Achor and I think time spent examining his work will have a similar impact for you.


I encourage you to check out his latest book, Big Potential. It’s based on his latest efforts to combine big data with research on the neuroscience and psychology that underlies individual and group happiness and potential. Here’s a short description of Big Potential from his book:


“We have long thought about potential as being a set of individual traits: your creativity, your skills your intelligence. But thanks to exciting new research combining neuroscience and psychology with Big Data, we now know that our potential is not limited by what we alone can achieve. Instead, it is determined by how we complement, contribute to, and benefit from the abilities and achievements of people around us.”


More Links

  • Visit Shawn Achor’s main website, ShawnAchor.com
  • Visit Shawn Achor’s company website, Goodthink
  • Watch Shawn Achor’s TED Talk, The happy secret to better work
  • The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work Amazon Link
  • Big Potential: How Transforming the Pursuit of Success Raises Our Achievement, Happiness, and Well-Being Amazon Link

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