No.1 Neuroscientist: Age 30 to 50 Will Be Your Unhappiest, Here's How To FIX IT! - Dr. Tali Sharot | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "No.1 Neuroscientist: Age 30 to 50 Will Be Your Unhappiest, Here's How To FIX IT! - Dr. Tali Sharot".


Note: This transcription is split and grouped by topics and subtopics. You can navigate through the Table of Contents on the left. It's interactive. All paragraphs are timed to the original video. Click on the time (e.g., 01:53) to jump to the specific portion of the video.


Intro (00:00)

You say that children don't impact our happiness positively. I mean, that's a data. What are you going to do? And that kind of got me worried, I have to say. Dr. Tali Sherritt, a leading expert on human decision-making, optimism, and emotion. And her TED talk has received over 14 million views. I'm going to talk to you about optimism. Kids and children, their happiest, and the most optimistic. Then it goes down and reaches rock bottom in your midlife. I'm 13 out, so I'm heading right down to rock bottom as we speak. Any advice? Yes, absolutely. So... One of the startling things is you talk about how one tiny move up on the optimism scale is worth an extra $33,000 a year in salary. It's quite something. So, optimists, this is what they usually do. If something went well, they usually interpret that as something about them that caused this positive outcome. Pessimists do the exact opposite. I got the job, but really because they didn't have any other candidates. Is that negative explanatory style, the road to depression? You have a really tight link between depression and pessimism. The question becomes, well, how do I enhance optimism? So there's a few ways to do it. I was thinking that everything you do is for happiness. The happiness is actually one of three factors that matter. So one is happiness, the second is meaning. And then there's a third factor that's also really interesting, which is... Before this episode starts, I have a small favor to ask from you. Two months ago, 74% of people that watch this channel didn't subscribe. We're now down to 69%. My goal is 50%. So if you've ever liked any of the videos we've posted, if you like this channel, can you do me a quick favor and hit the subscribe button? It helps this channel more than you know, and the bigger the channel gets, as you've seen, the bigger the guests get. Thank you and enjoy this episode. Tally, on the back of your book here, The Optimism by Stit says, you're one of the most innovative neuroscientists at work today.

Discussion On Positivity And Optimism

Your professional background (02:03)

How would you sort of define or categorize your own professional background? So I guess I almost have a cognitive neuroscientist, which is really a mix of psychology and neuroscience, and I'm mixing behavioral economics as well. So it's really a mix of all of that. So I'm interested in how, why human behavior the way that they do, and why do they have the thoughts that they have and the feelings that they have. And I think to understand that, you do want to understand what's going on inside the brain. But then there's other fields that give you a lot of really interesting insights, including psychology and behavioral economics, even things like law as well, sociology, philosophy. So it's really a kind of interdisciplinary adventure. And you studied both neuroscience and psychology at university and post-grad? Yeah, so I did my undergrad in economics and psychology. Right. And in fact, I did that because at the time, neuroscience was not available for an undergrad degree in Israel in the whole of the country. So that wasn't even an option. Yes, this was a kind of a long time ago. And then for my PhD, I did cognitive neuroscience, which is neuroscience and psychology mixed together. What was compelling on a personal level to you about studying those topics? Why of all the things you could have pursued? Why those things? Very early on, I was just really interested in human behavior. Right. It's about understanding yourself, but also understanding other people around you. And I think it's one of the most intriguing topics. And the brain was kind of a mysterious kind of organ that is orchestrating all of that. So I think it was just an interest in the world around you and people in it. Are there some like, when you started studying neuroscience and psychology, where there's some like fundamentals about the nature of life and the nature of human beings, that I'm unsure of this, so many of them. But were there any like real fundamentals that were debunked or reversed as it relates to your own personal perspective, whether it's about personal responsibility or about, I don't know, agency or autonomy about how much control we have or about how much influence we have over our happiness?

What really matters in our lives (04:04)

Were there anything foundational that had a real impact on your personal life? You know, there's one thing that recently is just something that I recently changed my mind on. And that was actually while writing the current book that I'm writing, which I'm writing together with Cass Einstein, who is the co-author of Nudge. And it was actually in fact about happiness, because, and I remember this clearly, I was in a workshop at the LSC, and they did a survey. They asked, "Who thinks that happiness is the most important thing?" Right. That everything you do is for happiness. And you know, everyone had to stand on a scale. If you think like, it's all about happiness, stand here. And if you think it's not at all, stand here, and I was standing here, I was thinking anything that we do, we do for happiness, and that all that matters. And while writing this book, actually, we both came to the conclusion, and for me, it was a change of mind, that happiness is actually one of three factors that matter. So one is happiness. The second is meaning. A lot of things you do, because it gives you meaning, and it doesn't necessarily give you happiness. Sometimes it's too go hand-in-hand, right? But sometimes it doesn't. So you could do work that's meaningful, and it doesn't necessarily give you happiness, and sometimes it does. And then there's a third factor, there's also really interesting, which is called the psychological rich life, which is basically variety. A lot of people just do things for diversity, for variety, to try a lot of different things. And again, sometimes it goes hand-in-hand with meaning and happiness, but sometimes it doesn't. And that kind of explains why many times we make choices that we understand is not necessarily going to gain us more happiness, but it will gain us some other thing, one of these two other things, that together, I think, is what brings a good life. And that is something I think I changed my mind on, that we're not actually motivated for happiness, probably defined as a good feeling, kind of joy. Why variety? Why do humans care about having variety in their life? I mean, there's kind of the unconscious evolutionary reason. Give me that one. So I think it's exploration, right? To move forward, both as an individual and as a society, we have to explore a lot of different things. Some of these things are not necessarily going to give you happiness immediately or for you at all, but a lot of times, if you explore a lot of things, you will find something that is going to be very important, maybe for yourself, maybe for our species. I always give kind of the really simple example of our ancestors leaving Africa to explore the rest of the world. Why would they do that? I mean, either they thought there was something better for them to find, and it was probably very hard to do. But that's just kind of an example of exploration, right? You're trying different things. And I can see it in my own life, right? I often do something and then I kind of, "Okay, I had enough with this. Let's try something else." And so variety is kind of a factor that I'm trying to maximize. It's kind of a balance, right? It's exploration and exploitation, right? So you need to do a little bit of exploitation because if you found something that works and something that you're good at, you don't want to just leave it be. But on the other hand, if you just stick with one thing, you may be missing a whole other, a lot of different things. It's like farming and hunting. It's like the analogy from that book who moved my cheese. When I think about variety, my brain was going, "Well, I know some people that get so caught up in their comfort zones that they never go exploring." And so the thought that would be motivated or fulfilled by variety, by new things, by adventure seems to sit in conflict with a lot of people that I know that are stuck in a situation and maybe not happy, but they're more confident in the known than they are leaving that place and venturing out. Right, because exploration is risky because there's uncertainty. You don't know what's going to happen. Risk means that there's a high likelihood of both good and bad and you just don't know where it's going to go. And so that can cause fear. Uncertainty is a state that usually people don't like and don't enjoy. And that's definitely something that keeps you in place. And in fact, one of the points that we make is that it seems that people are not making enough change in their life. That a lot of times, if people think about changing something in their life, maybe it's a relationship, maybe it's a profession. It could be something stupid, like the color of your hair, or something like that. There's a great, fun little study that was conducted by the free economic Stephen Levine. What he did, he wanted to see if, on average, making a change, when you think you might want to make a change, this is not just like, oh, I think you should get divorced when you're not even thinking about it. But when you're thinking about a specific change, on average, are you more likely to be happy if you go ahead with a change or not? Right, and this is a tricky thing to study because normally you could say, well, let's test people, let's ask them how happy they are before and after they decide to make a change after they made a change. And then also let's do the same for people who didn't make a change and see who's happier. That's not going to work because people who go on and make a change, they probably had more reason to do it. So it's not kind of a good experimental design. So he wanted to randomize whether people are going to make changes or not. So what he did is he had people go online and he asked them, are you thinking about a change? And it could be small and it could be big. And they said what the change was. And then he had them flip a virtual coin. So heads, you go with a change, you know, you take the new job, tails you don't. The likelihood that people would change if they got the heads, the change was 25% more than the people who didn't. So basically people were thinking about a change, they did it, they flipped the coin, if they got the change, they're more likely to have a change. And indeed people who went actually and committed and did the change were happier than people who didn't. So that kind of suggests that we're probably not making enough changes than we should be, potentially because it's scary, right? Trying something new is scary and sometimes it's not going to work. I think that's so much in friends of mine and like lots of DMs from young people who are in a situation where they're it's certain, but it's miserable.

How do we dive into uncertainty (10:52)

And they have a potential option to like go through that dark chasm to this potentially better place, but they're choosing to stay in that certain miserable situation, whether it's a relationship, a job, whatever it might be. And I've always felt that our relationship within certainty has a huge sway on our overall outcomes. And what I mean by that is people who are okay with jumping into that sort of dark hole, where there isn't certainty about their outcomes and just persisting because they'd rather not be in certain misery, end up having better lives. But I don't know how to get people to have a better relationship with uncertainty. I mean, that's a compelling argument. I can say to them, but you know, just stats and facts, because I read your books aren't enough. It then needs to be some kind of emotional pitch to them to get them to dive nose first and to uncertainty. Any advice? Yeah, that's a really good question. First of all, I mean, you're absolutely right. There's individual differences on how comfortable we are with with uncertainty, how comfortable we are with taking risks. So I think probably it would be something like, to some extent, helping them through the change. So it might be difficult to change people's relationship with uncertainty in a global general way, but perhaps every single time when there's a specific issue in front of them of what they want to change, kind of like helping them along the way with that change, holding them their hand and, you know, so to speak, is probably the only thing that you could do, right? To be like, I'm here for you, whether it's a friend or a mentor. In their mind, in that moment, the thing that's causing the resistance, you describe it as fear, right? Yeah. So what's the opposite of fear? Is it hope? You know, it's not an opposite, but I think it is something that will be likely to drive you to take that step.

How to become more optimistic (12:52)

And it's not so much just hope, it's optimism, which kind of takes us to some of my research. So, okay, what's the difference between hope and optimism? So hope is, you want something to happen in the future, right? I want to get that job. I want to find that relationship. Optimism is believing that I'm likely to get that job. I'm likely to find that wonderful relationship. And it's absolutely true that if you're optimistic, you think, this is going to go somewhere good, then you're more likely to go ahead and try that, which makes sense, right? Because my expectation is going to change my actions. And my actions is going to change my outcomes, right? Because if I think, well, I am going to try for this competition, because I think I'm likely to get something, then I go ahead and I try. If I think, well, there's no chance I don't try. And so, of course, I'm not going to get it. So it's a bit of a self fulfilling optimism. And so then the question becomes, if I go back to your question, then the question becomes, well, how do I enhance optimism, right? So there's actually, and that's, it's a good idea because enhancing optimism will cause you to take more risk. I want to learn how to enhance optimism with my team members, my companies. So there's a few ways to do it. One way is a sense of control. We do have, we are more optimistic about things that we believe we have control over, because we do think that when we have control, that means we can steer the wheel in the right direction, right? And so, if we can cause people to get a sense that they have control, and if it's about your team, is for example, let's say there's a project that you want someone to work on, so you can just tell them to do that project, or you can have them choose to do that project, right? And you can guide them to the choice that you think is correct. But if they believe that they made the choice, that enhances a sense of agency, enhances it change the sense of control, and they become more committed to that option. So you can give them, oh, well, there's two options, two projects you can work on, which one do you prefer? And again, you can frame it in a way that maybe perhaps we'll make them more likely to choose one over the other. But once they made the choice, it's amazing. We've done studies on this, where we give people options, for example, going on holiday. Do you want to go to France or Rome, right? Thailand or Hawaii? If they make a choice, there are two things that are exactly, they want it the same. They really want to go Hawaii, they really want to go to Florida. But once they make a choice, seconds after making a choice, they now believe that Hawaii is much better than they did just a few seconds ago before making a choice, and that Florida is not that great, right? Because once you make a choice immediately, your preferences change, you rationalize why that choice was great, and now you're more committed to it. So that's true for holidays, but it can be true for work as well, right? Should I go work on Project A or B? If I make the choice, I become more committed, and it doesn't work if someone else makes a choice for you. If someone else wants to choose for you, don't get into this rationalization mode where you have to rationalize your choice because it wasn't your choice. And once I feel I have control, then kind of that also enhances my expectations of how good it's going to be. But it also boosts your happiness, right? Because I read about the study in care homes, where they had an agency floor in the other floor where people didn't feel like they had a lot of agency and choice over their lives. And there was a pretty significant impact on levels of happiness, right? Yes. So what they did is they gave them some plans. Is that the study? Yeah, yes. Yes. Yes. Absolutely. So when we feel we have control, we have agency that enhances wellbeing. When we feel our agency has been restricted, that causes anxiety, right? And this is one of the reasons that people are quite anxious on planes. It's not just because we fear the worse, but because we have no control at all, right? No control about when are we going to get there? What are we going to eat, right? And that causes a lot of anxiety. So by enhancing agency and control, you are lifting people's wellbeing, happiness, and reducing stress and anxiety. Yeah, and that study with the plants, it works with kids as well, right? You can give kids some plans to take care of or have kids make their own salads. They'll be more likely to eat it. So that's just a few examples. What could, I mean, we're not part of the innovation team at any airline or anything, but I was just wondering in the planning example, what could we do then to reduce anxiety for passengers? I was thinking, you know, if we told them before take off, listen, if any of you need to land for any reason, it's not that we necessarily will. But as you say, in that study with the care homes, it's about giving them the perception that they have control versus actually giving them control. Yeah, okay. So there's a couple of things that they do. And some of them work for also some of the reasons, but in a funny way, it also enhances a sense of control. So one thing that the airlines do that I think is great is when you can see the equipment, the pilot view, you know? Yeah, we can see that for some, I mean, obviously you don't have control. But first of all, it reduces uncertainty. I mean, I really like to look at that. Like, what height am I in? What am I going? So that's, and although you know you don't have control, that gives you a sense of reducing certain, in some weird way also enhances a sense of control. I have to say, I was on a plane one day flying, I don't want to see the airline, but I was flying and I woke up in the middle of the night on the plane and I was, it was turbulent and I was convinced that we were going down. I was convinced I looked out the window and we were getting closer and closer to the clouds. And I did my quick math. We're flying from New York to London with roughly three hours into the flight. We're going down. That means we're going down in the sea. And I have about 10 minutes on that plane where I have complete certain, like, we're getting closer to the clouds. Why would we be getting closer to the clouds? And then I click on the little thing that you've described, the little flight map thing, and it says we're at 33,000 feet and we're not moving. And I go, I'm going to be like, I'm going to be back to sleep. Very relaxing. The clouds are getting closer to us. Yeah. I mean, whoever thought that was a good idea, obviously, understands psychology. The other thing that I like that they do is actually they did, and I mentioned that in one of the books. And it's not really related to control, but it relates to another really important part of psychology, which is, so normally at the beginning, you're about to go to get on the flight and they have to go over all the safety instructions. And normally, no one would listen, right, because it was all about in the state of emergency, then you have to do this and that. And no one wants to think about the state of emergency, right? So you kind of like shut down, they're like, okay, Twitter, Facebook. And so what they did is they, and especially Virgin did this, they switched it. So it was very entertaining, very light. And it was all about the destination. It wasn't about being in the sky and having an emergency state, which is negative. And I don't want my attention to go there. I don't want to think about it. It was about let's think about when you land, and it's going to be the islands and the beach and so on. And they kind of like put the information that you need to know within this very light and entertaining, positive, humorous video. And the number of people that watched that attended has gone up really tremendously. And in fact, people started watching it at home before they even got on play on YouTube. So that's another really interesting thing. And that goes to another principle that we find a lot in our work, which is that people take in positive information about their own future, much more than negative information about their own future. So if I'm starting, if I will tell you, you know, I think your podcast listening numbers is going to go down, you'll be like, well, she doesn't know what she's talking about. But if I say, oh, I think this is great. And it's only going to go up more and more with time. You'd be like, yeah, she's probably right and become more confident. So that's on average. People tend to take positive information to update their beliefs more than negative. It doesn't mean that we don't listen to negative information about our own future. But on average, we see that you learn more from unexpected positive information about the future. That somewhat confirms some of the things that I read in your second book, the influential mind where I remember I was watching a YouTube video where you were in it and they were X-raying.

Influencing people (21:29)

Is that what they call it when they look at someone's brain? Scanning someone's brain. Scanning, like in an MRI. Yeah, like an MRI scan and they were scanning someone's brain. As you told them that you agreed with their beliefs versus when you told them that you kind of disagreed with their beliefs. And when you agreed with their belief, their brain lit up and seem to be really receptive. And then when you told them you disagreed with their beliefs, their brain seemed to kind of just be frozen. And this is really useful for when you're thinking about having a conversation, trying to influence or have a conversation with your partner or get through to someone that starting with a great ability or something where you make them feel heard and seen and understood is a good way to open them up to information. Yeah, so this relates to something that's known as a confirmation bias. So the confirmation bias is our tendency to look for information that confirms what we believe and to use information that confirms what we believe to become even more confident and even more kind of in our belief. And yeah, so we did a study where we had people come into our lab in pairs and they had to make a financial decision together. In this case, they had to assess the value of a real estate. So they made the decisions and we did scan their brains at the same time and they were just in two separate scanners, but they could interact over the Wi-Fi. And they had to they saw like a real estate and they had to say how much it's worth and they could see what the other person said and if they agreed with them or not. And it's exactly what you said. I'm agreeing with you. When they agreed, your brain is like, when they agreed and they gave them more information about how confident I am and so on. So when someone agreed, the other person's brain showed activity that suggests that they were encoding the information coming from the agreeing partner. They were using it to update their beliefs and they were becoming more confident. But when someone disagreed, they kind of as you exactly let you said, did they shut down? They weren't listening, they weren't using this information. They were like, well, they don't know what they talk about and they were. That's it. And as you said, we feel that like in real life all the time. It's a problem because really our kind of instinct when someone disagrees with us is usually to say, well, listen, you're wrong. Let me explain. I'll explain why you're wrong here. Look at the data, look, the figures and so on. And what happens, the person in front of us is shutting down. A lot of times what they're doing is that the other person is starting to think about other reasons, why actually they're right and the other person's wrong. So while I'm talking, you're trying to think about what are you going to say to, you know, but if I start with something where we have common ground, then you're more likely to listen to me. You're more likely to see me as an agreeing partner and be more open to what I'm going to say next. And there's one example that I really like is actually about vaccines. And this was before COVID. So it was about childhood vaccines. So a lot of parents don't want to vaccinate their kids because of the alleged link to autism. And so usually they would go to the doctor's office and the doctor said, well, look, there's no link between the two. And here I'll show you the figures, the data, the science. And it didn't really work. The parents usually didn't change their mind. So instead, there's a group of scientists that said, let's see if we can go a different route. We won't actually mention anything about what we disagree, which is the relationship to autism. Instead, we will simply highlight what we already agree on, which is that these vaccines protect kids from potentially deadly disease, which is not something that the parents disagreed on. But the whole that seemed to have been forgotten in the debate, right? While they were focusing on what they disagreed on. So by focusing on that, on what they agreed on, which is the vaccines will protect kids from deadly diseases, they were three times more likely to change the parents' intention of vaccinating the kids. So I think this means, you know, if we're kind of in a conversation about, shall we invest in this company or that company? And we're kind of disagreeing about something. Is there a different route to get to, you know, the decision that we want without focusing there? Are there other things that we agree on that would take us to the same point? And then there's another method, which is just to highlight the commonalities between us. That's also helpful. You know, perhaps there's something, I mean, we have a goal in common. We have a motivation in common. Maybe there's something in our background, which is similar. And that also always makes people more likely to listen to you and to use what you're saying. It's so true. I was actually, as you were saying, I was thinking about a tweet I saw the other day where Mark Cuban was having an argument with someone else on Twitter. And Mark Cuban was going back and forth with this person. And he started his response to them with wrong, full stop, and then made his point. And you see that a lot where someone will start a sentence with, I disagree, full stop, and then make their point. When that happened, I'm just going to be completely honest because who cares? I mean, I'm a somebody that is imperfect and full of fault. When someone does that with me, when they literally start a sentence with wrong or I disagree, it's instant combat. And like, I'm well aware of it. So maybe it doesn't come up as much in me, but I remember, I can go back, I can remember three years ago, where I was when someone said to me, when we're having conversation, and they went wrong, full stop. And then they made their point. Regardless of what comes next, it's combat the minute you do that, the minute you kind of close the door and like pull up the drawbridge, which is exactly what that sentiment does, it's combat from then on. It's like, it's this war of proving that you're right. And that's not helpful for either party, right? It takes someone with a certain self-security, I guess, and not fragile ego to be able to be greeted with that sort of conflict and turn to what we have in common and what we agree on first. But it's a real powerful skill for someone to master. So, if you're disagreeing with me, for me to, you know, I like this as well with my relationship, because me and my partner, we might not agree on something. We might, we might, we have like, very fundamentally different beliefs about the world. She's very spiritual, I'm very sort of scientific in how I think. But I know that I get through to her when I first understand how she's feeling. I don't have to agree with it. But even if I understand how she's feeling and kind of like validate it, anything that I say next seems to get in behind. Does that make sense? Yeah. So, I mean, the difference is that what you're doing in the last kind of example is you're using what we call theory of mind, right? Theory of mind is our ability to kind of think about what other people are thinking or feeling. So basically take the point of view of the other person, right? If, and there's a huge variability in the ability of people to do that, there's like tests, relatively simple tests, actually, that can measure your ability to do that. And so, if you do that, the likelihood that that you will answer by wrong is very, very low, right? The reason we start by wrong, your mistaken is because we do the opposite. We come from our point of view, which makes sense because our brain is here and our eyes are here, right? So, it makes sense that we come from our point of view. It's like, this is wrong. This is not right. Right? But of course, the best way to get your message across is to try to see things from the other person's point of view and then think, okay, what can I say from that point of view, not from my point of view, from that point of view? Super difficult to do. I'm going to give an example. So, my partner was upset about something and feeling stressed about something, which is just to do with her environment. And my first response was very like logical and scientific, like, and also psychological, like kind of like it's just in your head, trying to kind of gaslighting. That's not exactly what I said before I get canceled, but it was referring to the fact that I think you can kind of think your way through this. Like, as if I was trying to help her feel empowered and not letting her environment get the best of her. Now, that didn't work. The response there was like, not good. My next approach was to completely understand how she's feeling and kind of go around her side and say to her, do you know what, you're only going to be here for five minutes anyway, and then it'll be fine. And that completely worked. It was like she was glued on me as I said that, and she looked at me and nodded and went, yeah, you're right. The first approach of trying to play logic and like, no, no, no, yeah, you know, didn't work. But then when I said, I understood, but then offered a solution from that place of understanding, she was really open to it. Yeah. And that was like an hour ago. So, it's a front to mind for me. Yeah. So, I think this is a problem a lot of times with like campaigns, like political, but also different campaigns where people try to get a message across using data, figures, logic, which are important. I mean, we need all the science and we need all the data to know what's true. But once you know what's true, the data is not enough to convince people of what is true. And in fact, the things that work are things that you are talking about, which is emotion works really well. Stories, anecdote, example, right? In science, the worst thing we can do is use one anecdote, right? So, we don't want to get a conclusion based on one anecdote. But in order to get our message across, in fact, a single anecdote is really helpful, right? And to my mind, we actually have to embrace that. That's the way the human brain works, right? So, I mean, I think if we just go ahead and say, well, I don't like that. I don't like how the human brain works. So, I'm going to give them data and figures anyway. Well, the message won't get across, right? So, we really need to embrace if we understand how the mind works, and then we embrace it to get the important information across. And again, another example that I kind of write about is this was years ago with the 2016 campaign where Trump was one of the candidates for the Republican Party and Dr. Carson was another. And they were debating and the debate turned again to the vaccines and autism question. And so, they were asked about, you know, Trump says that there's a relationship between childhood vaccines and autism. Dr. Carson is a pediatrician, and he was asked, well, you know, what do you think about this? And Dr. Carson said, look, this is not true. We have a lot of data. We have a lot of science. And, you know, I'm sure that if Trump reads the science and data, he will be convinced otherwise. So, then they turned to Trump to see if he was convinced. And of course, he wasn't convinced. But then what he did, he used the absolutely opposite approach, which is he told a story, a story of someone who worked for him, who had a little baby. And he said the baby got the vaccine and he used like to induce emotion. He used, like he said, it was a horse-sized syringe, right? And after a few weeks, the baby got autism. And now I'm not saying that we should do, we should communicate false information using anecdotes and emotion. But me, I remember I was actually watching that and my son was a few weeks old and he was next to me on the sofa. And I'm a scientist and I know all the data and I, you know, but still my, and I know that he was wrong, but my reaction was like, ooh, maybe I should think about this twice before I decide whether to vaccinate my little son here. And I felt like that, for at least I would say like a few minutes, a little bit more. And kind of that feeling made me think, look, if I'm thinking that, because all, because Dr. Carson just said there's data and figures and science and Trump just told a story that got me feeling quite anxious and he was much more influential. What about everyone else that's watching? You know, people who are not neuroscientists who don't have training with science. And it really kind of hit home how powerful it is. Now, you could use these techniques, obviously, to spread misinformation and to do harm, of course. But if Dr. Carson had used some of these techniques as well, he could say there's a science, but together with that, you know, maybe using some kind of anecdote, maybe use some hope, hope, and optimism in motion, right? Something like that. He would maybe have caused many, many people who are watching it to vaccinate their kids and therefore to save lives. So I think there's like, you know, if you don't understand human behavior and you don't use it, because maybe you don't like it, you know, like, you don't like that that's how the brain works, you'll be missing on something, right? This is why conspiracy theories flourish on social media, right? Because what I need to do is get one anecdote, one low context video, one picture, one screenshot of something and posted on Facebook. And regardless of the science, whether it's climate change or vaccines, whatever, that one little screenshot from a telegram group that says something happened to one person somewhere out of eight billion becomes way more sort of believable, implausible, and powerful than all of the science. And I've seen that over the last couple of years. It's why like the missing for me, it feels like a bit of a losing war, really, because we're bringing like facts and figures to an emotional fight. And the facts and figures just will never win. Like even below the, you know, social media channels now, we're putting the little tag on posts to say, well, actually, Plitico says this isn't true. It's like, he gives a crap, it hits somebody in the feelings. But it also speaks to the, you know, you talk a lot about this in your book, The Influential Mind. It speaks to how as business people or in sales or whenever we're trying to be heard and understood or influenced others, coming with facts, figures, graphs and charts is not going to be as compelling as coming with a really great emotional story. I've always impressed upon people as much as I can, that like your facts and figures and charts and graphs really don't really matter when you're trying to convince people. And that's what your book really speaks to. Right. And it's terrible for a scientist, of course, because all you do all day is gather data and do analysis. But yeah, so it's an interesting question. So why do these stories? Why are they so effective? And so I think there's two major reasons. One is they off well free, actually. One is mostly they induce emotion. And what emotion does, it gets you to focus, because emotion tells your brain, this is important, right? And it gets a whole brain noticing. It's like a little red kind of light in your brain going, emotion, pay attention, right? So if you say something that's emotional, people are going to pay attention and they're going to remember better. So emotion enhances the likelihood that you will remember things. Then the second reason is, if you think about it, how humans, how did we learn, right? Before we had science, before we had all these ways to get so much data, we would live in like relatively small groups and we would learn from observing others, right? Observing like a friend or someone who lives nearby, it was learning from stories. That's how we evolved to learn from a small n, right? Only now do we have these techniques and big data that we could really figure things out. But our brain is still a brain of these humans that didn't have the internet, that didn't have all the math that we have now. And so we're still learning from stories. That's kind of our instinct. Now, we are sophisticated creatures. We can overcome this. We can look at the data and we can learn. But really, our instinct is to learn from a single story. The third reason I think is that stories are often novel. Like you've never heard the exact same story in that kind of way. Again, novelty causes you to pay attention and causes you to remember it's another signal if something is important, right? Well, data and figures, you kind of heard it before, if someone says, "Well, there's no relationship between autism and vaccine," or whatever. I mean, you've already had the science. It's usually doesn't sound so novel. And really, our brain cares about the headlines, right? What's new? It's like a newspaper. We don't care about what's been the same. We care about this is new, means that we should pay attention. And then maybe it's important or maybe not. But that last point really resonated about the shin nature that stories are in essence novel. You've never heard about Debbie in Newcastle before. But also, you know, now it makes perfect sense as to why politicians in the House of Parliament every week say, "I spoke to my constituent Dorothy in Burnley." And then they'll tell the story about Dorothy struggling to to hit her home versus just coming with facts. And when you hear about Dorothy, who can't hit her home, you feel way more, "Oh my God," versus hearing 24% of elderly people can't hit their home, for example. When I think about motivation, though, does the same rules apply?

How to motivate people (38:20)

So if I want to motivate my team, should I be telling them the driver CEO who's done 20 million downloads this month, or should I be telling them a story of Dorothy who listened to the podcast and it changed her life? I think in this case, both things will work. I mean, seeing progress is something that really motivates us. And seeing progress with numbers is an easy way for us to see progress. This is why all these kind of track your steps work. So I think to motivate, it's always lovely also to hear a story, even for yourself. It doesn't matter how many people watched your podcast. When you meet someone, they tell you about how much you touch them and really change their life and they decide to make a decision because they heard you do something. You really remember that. That causes so much joy and motivation. Numbers are great too. When you look and you're like, "Oh, I have 1 million people listening to my podcast." That's great too. So I think both things work. And if you do use numbers, it's really great to kind of show the progress. A really great way to change behavior is to show people progress. And numbers is just one way to show it. If they can kind of see it going up, up, up, that's really helpful. And I mean, we know it in sports, but it can be true for anything. If it's like, you can do it. It's money, investments, seeing that go up. Relationships as well. I wonder how you can do it for relation. It's a good question. I say that because I feel like I do that sometimes with my partner where we might be facing some kind of issue. And one of the most compelling things we've ever done when we're facing an issue is we look at all the issues we've overcame together and how we're here. So there were so many other times where we thought this, we couldn't solve it. She lived on the other side of the planet. I lived here. We both didn't want to move. I've had exactly the same situation. Was her problem for years and years. Oh, really? Yeah. I remember a bit spinning set in a bar and my partner was talking about an issue, something that we were struggling with or whatever. And I remember saying to her, like, look, look how far we've come from where we were here to where we are now. So there's nothing that's going to get in the way of us, you know. And that seemed to be compelling because I guess it was an emotional story of all the previous issues we've overcame. Getting back to the optimism bias.

The optimism bias (40:44)

The optimism bias from what I understood is that is that biased to believing that the future will be good? Is that accurate or is that inaccurate? Yeah, kind of. So, optimism on its own means... You're bringing me even though I'm wrong. No, no, no, you're not wrong. I think what you mean is right. Thank you. I'll just give you the scientific definition. Yeah. So optimism is believing that that's some, you know, that positive things will happen. The optimism bias means that you're either like, you believe these optimistic things, these good things will happen, but the evidence suggests otherwise. So it's actually a mistake, right? The optimism bias. So usually we define it as overestimating the likelihood of positive events happening. So you're overestimating how much money am I going to get with my first job when I leave graduate school, right? Or overestimating like how long my marriage will last. And so, on. So overestimating the positive in light of the evidence that is in front of us and underestimating the likelihood of negative events happening. So underestimating might likely have getting COVID, of getting cancer, of being in a car accident, going bankrupt, whatever it is, based on whatever evidence is there. So optimism bias doesn't mean mistake. So the word bias means a systematic mistake. So obviously, when we think about the future, we can't be right most of the time because the future is uncertain and we don't know what's going to happen. So we're going to be wrong a lot of times when we predict the future. But the optimism bias means that the mistakes that we make tend to systematically be that we expect it to be better than it ends up being. So that's basically the optimism bias, right? I expect it to be better than it ends up being, which sounds like a bad thing, but it's not necessarily so. I mean, the word bias people usually, because it is a mistake, people usually think that that means it's not a good thing, but it's not necessarily so. It can actually have both positive and negative outcomes to it. So if you think about the positive, if I expect good things in my future, specifically good things, even though I'm overestimating the likelihood of these things happening, even if they think, oh, I'm going to make one million in the next year, and of course, that's way more than I'm going to. But that then motivates you, right? So having these positive expectations motivates you to try harder. It's a bit like, I think I'm going to get the gold. I'm more likely to get the silver. So that's kind of the idea. And it also enhances your happiness and well-being, right? Because how you're feeling now is a lot to do, not necessarily with what you're doing at the moment, but what you think you'll be doing later, right? How you're feeling now is like, okay, you might maybe feeling nice talking here, but a lot of it is, what do I think I'm going to do later on this evening, next week, next month, in a year? Our expectations of where we will be in the future effects our happiness today, right? And so if I have these positive expectations of the future, even if they're not going to happen, they make me happier today. This is why there's a really cool study that was done at Harvard, where they were asking people who are about to go on vacation, how happy they were every day before vacation, and have every day doing vacation and every day after vacation for a week. So a week before vacation every day, a week doing vacation every day, a week after vacation every day. So what was the happiest day, do you think? The day before they were? Right, exactly, right. The day before vacation, they were still in the office, right, working on the computers, but on their minds, they were already on vacation. On their mind, it was wonderful. And when they went on vacation, it was good, but it wasn't as good as it was in their minds the day before. So it's the anticipation of these good. So it's an optimism bias because they thought the vacation is going to be better than what it ended up being, but that brought them the happiness beforehand, right? And also probably, enhanced it likely, they will go on vacation, which is a good thing as well. So does that mean that we should, in our relationships and in our teams, etc., we should try and give people things to look forward to? Absolutely, absolutely. And I think that there's two things. You kind of want things in the diary, right? So having a vacation in the diary that's going to happen in a month makes you happy today. So whatever it is, whatever you're doing for that matters to your team, have what I call anticipatory events, right? Things that they could look forward to that will make them happy today. But also, I think, you know, a lot of times, I do motivate my team by telling them that I think this project is going to work really well. I mean, even I think it's from pretty well, but I might like exaggerate a little bit because, you know, that enhances motivation. And who knows, you know, maybe it will work even better than I expected. So it's good to kind of enhance kind of the expectations and also to have these things that people can look forward to. And of course, it works the other way. So also, if you're dreading something, that's going to happen tomorrow next week, right? You have to go to the dentist or whatever bad thing is happening, is going to get there and that it's going to affect your mood today. So dread of things in the future and anticipation of the good stuff is all affecting how we feel at the moment. Quick word from one of our sponsors.

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How contagious is optimism or pessimism ? (47:39)

Yeah, any emotion is contagious. Anything sadness, anxiety, joy, everything is contagious, fear. And it happens really, really fast and in an unconscious way, right? It could be even like you're sitting in the tube and someone in front of you is looking fearful. You straight away will feel fearful yourself. First of all, you will mimic the expression of the person that's in front of you without noticing it. So if you look fearful, I'm going to start mimicking the same facial expressions. Yeah, and that facial expression will make me feel fearful, right? Because our brain is learning from how our face, right? It's a signal and it goes both ways, like a feedback loop. And there's a good reason for it because if someone is afraid, there might be something dangerous around us. So I should have seen the monkeys in the David out of our documentary that start, they know that they know that the other monkeys are taking a cue from them. So they fake, fear, so they go, and then when all the monkeys run off, they go and get the food. Because they've like, they've like got to level two where they realize that they're all taking cues from each other. And I remember that documentary thinking, wow, like, you know, because all the monkeys would run the minute one monkey made a reaction. And that's pretty much what you're describing there, right? Yeah, exactly. And it works for good things as well. If someone looks excited, you're like, you will feel excited as well. You don't know why. But if they're excited, there might be something good around, right? Is this one to get together? I was thinking about you. It's just mimicking. We do facial expressions. We mimic any kind of facial expression and bodily expressions as well. Yeah, I'm trying not to now. But, but okay, so why is this really important to think about? Because let's say you want to, you're managing your team, if you're stressful and you're going to start like, I don't know, even like shouting or raising your voice or they're going to get more stressed as well. Right. So it's, it's, it's true. It's a bit like the monkeys. You can actually change at least explain how you look in terms of the emotions. You need to think about what is my, what emotion am I conveying? Because the emotion that you are conveying is going to then affect how people around you feel. So there's a little bit of kind of emotional control that is helpful to. You mentioned that you kind of exact, you might exaggerate a little bit the belief in a positive outcome to your team members. And I think that's... And I hope they're not listening. Yeah. Well, I think we all do sometimes. I mean, I usually believe it because I think I have a bit of a bias, an optimism bias myself. But that's in part because of, I guess, chapter three in the optimism bias where you talk about how self-fulfilling optimism is. And there was some really, really staggering statistical sort of studies and experiments that have been done to prove that optimism really is a self-fulfilling thing. And it kind of makes me think about this concept of manifestation. People always talk about manifestation. And it seems that it's, in my mind, always been this kind of pseudo-sciencey, you just think about something and then it happens. What's your view on manifestation? Is it true? Yeah. So it's not magic. It's not that I'm thinking something in my mind and the waves are going to change what happens in the world. The reason if you believe something, the likelihood that will happen is higher is because you then change your actions. You think, I think my startup is going to really succeed. And that then changes your actions. You're more likely to go out there and tell other people. So if you think it's going to succeed, you're more likely to convey that information to investors and so on, they can see your kind of confidence. There'll be more likely to invest in you. You put more time in, you put more effort in. And that's why it can have an effect on the outcomes. So it's not kind of a magic kind of thing. It's just that what we believe in our mind changes the way we behave and the way we behave in the world changes the world. So that's why that is. And then that's kind of like the side of self-fulfilling prophecies linked to this concept of stereotyping, where one of the real startling things I read in your work was that if a woman is reminded of her gender before a math exam, then her performance on that math exam will drop. Right. So our expectations, where do they come from? To some extent, I mean, they're coming from around us as well. Not only, we can have confidence even if the people around us do not. But other people's expectations, whether it is your friends, your family, society will impact your own. And so, and again, that's becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, right? If you're told, females are not good in math, they're not good in science, they can't be CEOs and so on, that will change the way that you think. Even if it's momentarily, even if you're trying to fight it, it will change the way that you think and what you believe, and that will then change your outcomes. And I think maybe in that, I mean, we don't know exactly why reminding females about the stereotype that the females don't do well with math changes, the exam results, but it could be things like maybe it enhances anxiety. You start self-doubt, right? I mean, if you go to an exam and there's self-doubt, well, that's not helpful. And there's, you know, there's all these classic studies where there was in a class, they would tell the teachers at the beginning of the semester who the talented kids were, but it was random. They randomly selected kids and they said, "These are the talented ones." By the end of the year, they did better with these kids, right? Because the teachers believed that they were talented, they would treat them in that kind of way, they would maybe put more time, they could vacate their expectations to the kid, the kids started believing that they're talented and that gave them confidence and they performed better. And of course, it works the other way, right? If a teacher is told, "This is the naughty one, this is the non-intelligent one," that will then change how the kids behave, what they believe. And this is where stereotypes are, you know, come into play as well because sometimes it's about not specific individuals, it's about a whole group of individuals. And one such example as well is the study where African Americans were found to do significantly worse on IQ tests compared to Caucasians, people that are white, when race was emphasized before the IQ test. Yeah. But did as well as white people when no stereotype was mentioned before. Right. So just by mentioning that I am black before I do a IQ test will lower my performance on the test versus if you hadn't mentioned it. Because the association here reminded of your ethnicity and you're doing this exam and then you know that maybe in your society, there's a stereotype and again that can cause self-doubt and anxiety and so on. And what I think I like is that I think after I talk about that study, I also talk about another study that after Obama was elected, grades went up for African Americans. Because again, it's a self-confident thing. It's amazing how these, you know, little things, I mean, it's not little. The fact that Obama got elected is not little. But then the fact that that then impacts your self-confidence, you know, the little impact on self-confidence then changes your grades. It's quite something. But it also changes your, one of the other things I read that was really startling, it also changes your salary. You talk about how one tiny move up on the optimism scale is worth an extra $33,000 a year in salary over the long term. Right. And I, okay, so that shows us a correlation. I think that's, so we still don't know for sure if it is it that because I have specific traits, I'm more likely to be optimistic and therefore more likely because of those traits also more likely to gain higher salary. So, you know, you can imagine I'm optimistic because I had a very privileged life and I did well in school. So, I'm more optimistic and for the same reasons, I'm then more likely to get a higher grade. But in some cases, so we don't know if it's going one way or the other way, right, if it's a causation or correlation. One interesting thing that has been found is that optimists are more likely to be entrepreneurs. There's, I mean, that is quite clear, you know. And again, we don't know, is it because I'm optimistic that I'm more likely to be an entrepreneur or is it something about being an entrepreneur that makes me more optimistic? But what they found is after you become an entrepreneur, you become even more optimistic. So that suggests that there is something, it is true that optimistic people are more likely to take a chance, more likely to take a risk and therefore more likely to be entrepreneurs. And that experience of doing that enhances your optimism for a sir, which is really interesting. It kind of goes both ways. Does that then explain how we can teach someone to become more optimistic? Because if the pursuit of entrepreneurship is kind of self-reinforcing your optimism, it's making you more and more optimistic, one would assume that that's because you're gaining evidence about yourself and the world and what you're capable of as you're going, which is further sort of fueling you. And conversely, someone who I don't know, maybe lingers too long in their comfort zone and is like leaning out of opportunities, constantly being negatively reinforced in terms of their self-belief and their skills, etc. So they're becoming more and more pessimistic. Is that like broadly true? I think it might be. Yes. I think you're gaining evidence that you can do things. And I think even if you feel, you still gained evidence that you were able to try something new. And not die. And not die. And you learn something. Yes. I think you're absolutely right. So if you're able to get people to have these kind of experiences, that then causes them to become more confident, that will then enhance their optimism. So how do we talk about all the positive upsides there of being an optimist?

If someones negative how do I make them positive (57:59)

If I've got a friend that's a pessimist or a partner or a husband or whatever it might be, how do I get them? We talked a little bit about it there, but how do I get them to become more of an optimist? Because I want to be surrounded by optimists. I want my company to be full of them, like pragmatic optimists, but still people that believe that the future is going to be good and we're going to do great things for all the self fulfilling reasons you've described. What do I do? Okay. So first of all, I just want to mention that about 30% of how optimistic we are is genetically determined. This has been shown from twin studies, but that still leaves two fords. I think the best studies on this comes probably from Martin Seligman, where he actually did experiments where he got people who were somewhat pessimistic, even slightly depressed. And the approach that he took is to change what he calls interpretation style. So optimists, this is what they usually do. If something happened and it went well, you sold your start up for a lot of money, you had a project and it was successful, they usually interpret that as meaning that it's personally something about them that caused this positive outcome. And it is something in them that's quite permanent. Let's say my project went well because I'm a hard worker, and maybe I'm intelligent or whatever. And then they say, well, if I have those skills, that means that a lot of other things are going to work well in life. If I'm in a hard work or if I'm a good with people, that also means that I'll be a good dad for example. When something negative happens, they tend to do the opposite. They tend to see it as circumstantial. This negative thing happened. So I didn't put a lot of effort in this, but not because I'm not a hard worker. I just didn't put an effort because I was distracted by something else. This other person just happened to have a better proposal. So it's circumstantial. That means that they don't take that as evidence of how am I going to perform in the future. So it's really different interpretation of negative outcomes and positive outcomes. So what, and then pessimists do the exact opposite. When something bad happens, they say, this bad thing happened because of me, because of a trait that I have, and because I have this trait, let's say I'm bad with people, that's going to affect all the rest of my life and all these future projects. When something good happened, it's circumstantial. Good thing happened. I got the job, but really because they didn't have any other people candidates. So what Martin Saldeman did is he taught people this interpretation style. That he taught them, whenever something good happens, this is how you have to think about it. You have to think about what is it about you that caused this positive thing to happen? And how is that positive trait or whatever skill or whatever thing you did? How can it affect other parts of your life and other future outcomes and the opposite for negative? If something negative happened, I don't mean it don't take responsibility, but are there circumstantial? It could be something that you did, but it doesn't have to be permanent. You happen to be in a really bad state because, I don't know, something else. Your parent was sick or something. So he teaches them the people to kind of interpret this, to find these reasons for the positive and negative, and it seemed to work, to some extent. Now, it's difficult. It's not easy to turn a pessimist into an optimist, but it had some effect on their well-being and even on their physical health as a result. Is that negative explanatory style of saying, "Okay, this bad thing happened. It's because of me. It's because I'm not good enough," whatever. Is that the road to depression? Yeah. So there's a really tight link between depression and pessimism. So pessimism is a symptom of depression, it's an actual symptom. And so what we see is people with severe depression have a pessimistic bias. They expect the future to be worse than it ends up being, and worse than the evidence in front of them is. People with mild depression have no bias at all. This doesn't mean they're accurate. They can make mistakes, but on both sides. So sometimes they expect things to be better. Sometimes they expect things to be worse, but overall, they don't have a bias. Happiness. One of the things we talked about before we started recording was, Scott Galloway said on this podcast that, "Happiness looks like a U-shape throughout our lives.

Happiness throughout our life (01:02:16)

When we're young, we're at a high level of happiness, and then we dip into our 40s." I think from what I read, when we hit our 40s, that's kind of the lowest. Sounds kind of grim, but that's our lowest point of happiness. And then it kind of curves back up again as we go into the last sort of chapters of our life. Is that accurate? Because Scott didn't provide any research, and I've molded over. No, so this is true. It's based on many studies and studies involving thousands of individuals, up to 70,000 or more in a country. And it's been shown in many, many countries. So not just in the Western world, in many, many countries, almost all countries around the world. So exactly what you said, kids and children, they're happiest and the most optimistic. Then it goes down and reaches rock bottom in your midlife as well as optimism does. So actually, in middle age, you stop having an optimism bias. So your optimism bias is greater, greatest in children and kids. It goes down, down, down. And then really, there's no optimism bias in midlife, on average, of course. And then it starts going up. You become happier and more optimistic until the last few years of life, which is counterintuitive to our image of the grumpy old man. And it actually stays there until the last couple of years of life. The difference between countries is that the dip, the point where it's lowest, actually is a little bit different between country and country. I think in the US, it's about 40. It's relatively early, I think in the UK as well. But then some countries as much, I think Italy might be 50, Greece as well, like 50 to 60. And then there's a few countries where you don't see that. Russia is one of them. Romania, and I forget, there's another one where you actually don't see, they actually just become less and less, less happy in those countries. We don't know why that is that specific case. I'm 30 now. So I'm heading right down to rock bottom as we speak. Well, you've got time. You've got time. I'm about to turn. So I'm looking forward. I'm in the way. Well, not quite yet, but I'm about on my way up. And this links to, I think chapter five in your book, where we say, where you talk about the chapters called humans are bad at predicting what makes them happy.

Children impacting our happiness (01:04:38)

And one of the startling things is that you say that children don't impact our happiness positively. Now, I'm under the impression that children make us ecstatically happy. Well, it's difficult. But from what I've heard from people, I thought children are something to really be looking forward to, but you seem to assert otherwise in your book. So this, first of all, I want to say this is just a research in the numbers. And my, I'm not just saying this, but my own experience is the absolute opposite. Bear mind her child is upstairs. And he's watching this. Leo, no, but it's absolutely true. Because it's funny, because because of that research, and I wrote the first, this is in my first book, The Optimism Bias, which I wrote before my kids. And I actually, I mean, I believed it. I mean, that's a data. What are you going to do? And that kind of got me worried, I have to say, about having kids. I was a little bit worried about the fact that children, it says children's, you know, children don't mean you happy, you become less happy. You become less happy. When you have children, that's what the research. I didn't, I didn't see that. Oh, sorry. That's what you said, right? Because children don't make you happy. Yeah. Right. But I didn't know there was, I thought they didn't make you more happy. I didn't know they make you less. Oh, no, it's apparently like, I mean, the data shows, I mean, there's a little different points of data. So for example, there's one piece of data that shows that this was done by actually Daniel Kahnmann, who's a Nobel Prize winner, where they asked a large group of French women to say how happy they were throughout the day. So I don't know, have a few hours or maybe at the end of the day, they said what they were doing and how happy they were. And they found that the least happy people are is commuting. But then I think number two, least happy was being with their children. So I have to tell you from my, this is an anecdote, an N of one, my children really make me extremely happy. I love being with them. I'm really, it's contrary to all the research. So I, I truly, I mean, I'm surprised, you know, before they were born, I was thinking, look, if, you know, if I don't like them, we'll put them in boarding school. And my mom was like, I don't think you want to put them in boarding school. You're probably, and I was like, well, we'll see. And then, and then no, absolutely love having them around. So, but that's just an N of one. So I don't know. And of course, your own experience, unfortunately, even as a scientist, shapes the way that you interpret the data. But I mean, look, having, I mean, I'm sure having children can be difficult and, and you know, it depends on your life circumstances and all of that and temperament of the child and so on. And so I'm sure it could be, it could be difficult. But it's not, it's not because there's a distinction, as you said, at the start of this conversation between like happiness and meaning. It might be difficult, but it's meaningful. And like work is difficult. There's like varieties of work. If I'm working in a job with low autonomy, where the outcomes I'm like, subjectively not interested in, then it's just difficult work. But if I'm like raising a child, it's difficult, but it's tremendously meaningful. So although I might say to this, the investigator that, I'm unhappy when my kid is crying and running around and smashing everything and playing with the rewigs, keep them, won't put it down. I reflect on that in hindsight and go, amazing. You know, it should be a choice. Absolutely. I mean, meaning is important. And you should do things. You should make choices according to meaning as well. And obviously there's individual differences. In my case, they just actually make me happy. I can like dance with them in my, you know, at home and like actual happiness. But you know, I can obviously, it's different. It's not like all the time, of course. What about marriage? That was the other one that was quite surprising.

Exploration Of Happiness, Fear And Marketing Strategies

Marriage impacting our happiness (01:08:29)

That it didn't make a sense. Okay. So that was a little bit, it's been a while since I look at this, but I think it was nuanced, which is what does make you happy is being in a relationship. I believe that didn't, whether you were married or not married, didn't really matter. But I think being in a relationship was was inducing happiness. The other kind of interesting finding about that is that how fast people get over divorce, right? That it takes, I mean, I don't know if it's fast or not, but within like, so just before a few years before you get divorced, happiness starts going down, because of course there's problems, I guess, and so on. And it actually hits rock bottom just about the time that you get divorced. And then it starts going up, you start adapting, right? And in fact, goes back to baseline levels of happiness within about two years. I don't know, maybe maybe two years is a lot, but then people bounce back. So when you kind of think about these changes, which could be negative, right? Divorce. I think people don't consider as much our ability to adapt so fast, right? To change so fast. I think COVID was a really good example of the pandemic. I mean, before the pandemic, if I was to tell you you're going to have to stay at home and not see anyone else and you'd be like, this is disaster. How's it going to happen? People adapted quite fast. Yes, stress. We did studies. We actually started doing studies a few weeks after the pandemic started. We did see, of course, stress and anxiety was enhanced. But a not as much as we thought. And number two, the bouncing back was extremely surprising within just a couple of months, a lot of people were back to their baseline happiness. So adaptation is really fast. You kind of find ways to overcome these things. That being said, that was like a bird's-eyed view, because there were parts of the population that were not doing well, right? So if you kind of take a worm's-eyed view, you see that, for example, people with mental health problems, I mean, pre-existing ones, they had trouble adapting to this new situation. Some women actually did a little bit worse because they were probably had more of the child care. Younger individuals did worse than older individuals, maybe because of that U-shape curve. But in general, people adapt faster than they believe they will. And I think that goes back to our question of why don't people take risks and why don't they make changes? I think because one of the reasons is they're afraid that they won't adapt to the change. And they underestimate how fast and how well humans adapt to changes in their environment and their situation. I mean, this is basically why our species did so well and why we're all here today, I think, because we can just adapt to these different environment changes. When we're trying to get people to take action in their lives or just take action in teams and search, one of the things in the influential mind book that you wrote talks about how fear and trying to scare people.

Fearing people into action (01:11:25)

And I was thinking about it then when you're talking about the pandemic and much of what the governments were saying and how trying to get us to conform to the pandemic through fear, I guess. Should we try and scare people into action as leaders? Yeah, so I really like this because it's kind of a fundamental nor scientific finding that it's a little bit of a leap but tells you something really interesting and how to get people to do something or not to do something. So basically what we find is that if you want to induce action, it's more helpful to highlight the rewards. If you do this, if you put the time in, you're going to get a promotion. Unless so about the fear that if you don't do this, you won't get a promotion. So if you want people to act, highlighting rewards, highlighting the good outcomes is better. If you want people not to act, let's say you want them not to reveal some secret, actually highlighting the punishment is better. And why is that? So this is where I find it really interesting, which is we kind of evolved in a world that to get something good, whether it is a promotion or love or we have to do something. So I'm thirsty, I need to move my hand and have a little sip of this tea. So and imagine it doesn't necessarily, this is a world we live in, but it's not necessarily the way it could have been. It could have been that to get the tea, I'd have to kind of like go like this and not do anything. I imagine like different physics or something, right? But the world that we live in is to get the good stuff you have to do things. And so our brain has evolved in this kind of world where anytime something good, we anticipate something good, a go reaction is activated deep in our brain in the midbrain. It goes all the way to our frontal cortex and makes action more likely. Now, the reverse is that if usually in the world to avoid something bad, usually not always, but usually we just need to not do anything. So whether it's deep waters, untrustworthy people, poison, I usually just need not to eat, not to jump in the pool, right? I need to just stay put. So our brain has evolved in this kind of environment that to avoid the bad things, I need to not act. And so when there is anticipation of something bad, and no go reaction is activated deep in our brain goes all the way to our frontal cortex, and it inhibits action. Now, again, we're sophisticated creatures, we can overcome this, but our immediate reaction is to freeze in this case, not to flee or act, right? First we freeze, then we might be able to do something. And so we see this in like very basic studies where we tell people press a button to get money or press a button to avoid losing money. They press the button faster to get the dollar than to not avoid losing it because action is related to rewards, right? Interesting. So it's hard for them to do to, I mean, of course they do it, but there's a little bit of an ambition if the goal is to not have something happen, not to lose, right? We kind of, I mean, a lot of, I mean, there's on one hand, there's these theories about fear gets me motivated, I don't want to lose, that's why I don't really believe that that is the commonly true. I think usually we do stuff to get things rather than to avoid losing things. Example in your book as well is you think about planes going down when people are most scared, they're just frozen and fear doesn't necessarily seem to be a great driver of human action and motivation in the same way. That's really important for organizations that are trying to get their people to take greater risks and to innovate and to take chances, which is to try and remove as much of that fear as you possibly can. Right. And also to kind of be able to vividly imagine this like goal, this better future. Again, it's not because our, whatever we think in our mind is changing the world, but it changes your behavior. Chapter six in your book is what happens to people under threat.

The role stress plays in peoples actions (01:15:37)

And you talk a lot about stress and the role stress plays in organizations and companies. Now I've gone back and forward in my mind about the concept of stress, because I remember reading a lot that some of the most subjectively fulfilling jobs were like quite stressful jobs. It was things like being a military commander at the highest level, because I guess they have a lot of meaning associated with them. But what role does stress play on people's behavior and actions as it relates to workforces and teams and relationships? I'll actually start with the kind of example that you're talking about. You're saying, well, a lot of the really most filling jobs are highly stressful. But I think the people who take those jobs are somewhat resilient more to stress than others. So how much stress you're feeling is a subjective thing. It's not only about what's happening. It's also about you. So you could have a, what other people will consider a very stressful job. And you're maybe feeling a little bit stress. And we know, I mean, I'm sure a lot of people know this, that the optimal, there's an optimal kind of inverse U shape for stress. No stress at all is actually not that great for your performance. And a lot of stress is also not good. You want to be somewhere where you have a certain amount of stress that's driving you forward. But again, that certain amount of stress is the subjective feeling of it is not the objective happening, right? But what kind of I talk about there is that what happens when you are stressed. And when I say stress, I mean, you're feeling stress like cortisol is going up and, and you know, that people tend to concentrate on negative information. So if we give people, so this is kind of interesting. If we, we, I ask you, like, what is the likelihood that you will sell your company and you give me a number? And I give you a number and I say, you know, actually, based on my data, you're more likely to sell the company. You will listen to me, you'll change your belief. But when I tell you actually based on my, my, my data, you're less likely to sell your company that you believe you won't change it as much. You listen, you'll learn a little bit, but you'll learn more when I give you the good news. So we talked about that a little bit before good news is more effective than bad news, not under stress. So if you're stressed out for whatever reason, it doesn't have to be a business reason. You could be stressed because of the conversation you had with your partner, that will then affect how you take the information that I give you. You will now focus more on the negative information, surprisingly negative information that I give you, than you would otherwise will. And if you look at, you know, if you look at events in, in the world, whether it's after a terrorist attack or a pandemic or natural disaster, people get a lot of this kind of information, even if it's not happening here, there's a terrorist attack halfway around the world, we get all the information on the media that stresses us out. The stress causes us to focus more on the negative information, which of which there's a lot of at the time. And that can actually cause people to be overly pessimistic. So a lot of times we're overly optimistic, but actually, when really stressful things happen, we could be overly pessimistic. And you can see that in the market, in the financial market, where when the market starts going down, even if it's a little bit, it does cause stress, and then start people get overly pessimistic, they start panicking and selling their stocks, and really they should be holding on. So we get these like overly pessimistic reactions under stress because people start focusing on the negative. So they don't see the evidence, the positive information, they focus on the negative information. It's funny because the example you gave there in the context of selling a company in a business, I've got a very close friend of mine who pre-pandemic set valuation for his company. I'm going to say 100 million. And he was stead set on it. He wouldn't accept a penny less post-pandemic, and in the wake of the economic backdrop, we're facing our recession. He is desperate to sell it for 20 minutes. It's the exact same company. It's weird how much his perspective has changed from being this person who is absolutely not willing to budge. The company's not changed, the company's as well as it was before. But just with the pessimistic outlook, he's suddenly trying to offload the company for a fraction of the price, and is suddenly seems to be incredibly desperate in doing that. And I guess that further reinforces your point about us being much more suggestible and pessimistic in times of threat and stress. Because now it's not likely that there's any a buyer out there. And it's just interesting having observed that in him so quickly it seems. It wasn't even pre- and post-pandemic because in the pandemic, the markets were great. It was about a year ago. It's about 12 months difference. That he's willing to drop the value of his company by about 80%, even though it's doing really, really well. And then the one thing I think about a lot in building companies and building company cultures is the role stress plays on innovation and risk taking. It's interesting because most of the teams that I run, going back to social chain and even this team and other teams that I'm in, they are somewhat high pressure teams. We're usually at the front of our market. We're usually pushing very hard. The growth is usually very, very intense, but at the set, which causes, I imagine, stress, but at the same time, we're there and we'll stay there by taking the high degree of risks. So how do I balance that environment, which can be stressful, while also meeting people to continue to take risks and innovate and feel safe in doing so? What else would you give me? Because we said that stress is really, stress is your own reaction within yourself and that reaction can be different to the same outside environment, then what you really want is to reduce people's stress and not necessarily not put the pressure on them. I mean, that's the better. You could basically do two things. You could say, oh, I'll put less pressure on them. I mean, give them less work to do. Or on the other hand, you could be like, well, actually, let's stay with this amount of work, but can we just reduce the way that they perceive it on the stress that they have? So I actually think my answer is going to be extremely simple because the research shows that simple things, and this is so simple that I'm exercise actually is great at reducing stress. I don't do things like meditation and so on, but people, there's studies showing that that also reduces stress. So I actually think those are really important going outside, walking in nature, right? Social interaction. So there's all of these things that can reduce stress. And I really believe that just having this kind of sounds like really that's on, but just working out like an hour in the morning or something like that is going to hugely change. It reduces stress. It makes you more focused. Then if you want to do like something more psychologically, you can highlight how you can get through it, right? So, okay, so this is all the workload. And these are all the problems that can, there are hurdles, either the problems, either the hurdles. But, okay, let's think through how we go. We actually overcome them rather than just put it out there, right? Walk through about, okay, what are we going to do in order to get to where we want? And then the other thing that we talked about, the other little bit ago is progress monitoring. That's always helpful. Not just saying that things are progressed. If you can actually, like, if there's a way to see it, right? If there's an actual way to put it on a board or something like that. Because again, enhancing people's confidence and optimism will reduce stress as well. These are two fantastic books. I mean, they're right up my street. People will know from the "Sintours" podcast that all of this subject matter about influence, about the brain, about psychology, optimism, pessimism, all of these topics are things that I absolutely adore. So, anyone that loves this podcast should immediately go and check out these books because they are real sort of foundational books on this subject matter. But what are you thinking about next? What are you, what are you, you know, you could write about anything, I think, because of your, your huge broad understanding of human beings.

what are you working on next (01:23:29)

There's so many things you could write about sales, whatever. What are you thinking about next? So, the book that I'm working on at the moment, which probably will be out in about one year in 2024, is about how is it that in fact we're not noticing a lot of the things around us, a lot of the good things around us, and a lot of the bad things around us. And in fact, the reason for it is a basic physiological reason of how our mind works. Every single neuron in our brain actually. And what it is, is that when something is constant, doesn't change in front of us, we stop noticing it, we stop feeling it, we stop responding to it. So, something simple, like you jump into a pool, it's really cold, after a few seconds, doesn't feel that cold. Or there's like the refrigerator noise, it really bothers you because you just walked into the room, but after a few minutes, or maybe half an hour, maybe 10 minutes, you stop noticing it. You go to, I don't know, if people still remember going to a barn was full of smoke before smoking with bands, you'd go in and you'd be like, "Ah!" And then you don't notice it anymore. The reason is, is that's how our neurons work. That's how the brain works. The neurons will respond to things that are novel, new just happened. And after a while, they adapt and they stop responding. Physically, they just stop responding. So, okay, fine, that's fine when it comes to sound or smoke and so on, but it happens to everything. It also has what we call emotional adaptation. So, you meet your partner and it's so exciting and you're so grateful and you're really kind of feel the love. And so, and it goes down over time. If they're constant, if they're with you, you just don't notice how wonderful, you know, what is around you. You got a new job that you always dreamed of and you're so happy, but very, very soon, you think, "Oh, you know, what is the next thing?" Now, that's not a bad thing. The reason that we do that is because we want to progress, but it also makes us a little bit less grateful and happy. And the flip side is the side that people haven't noticed so much, which I think most of our book is, which is about the fact that we stop noticing the bad things around us. Things like, for example, if you go, as we talked about a little before we started, you go on Twitter when you just started Twitter, you know, 2010 or whatever, you'd go on and you'd be like, "Oh, this is terrible. People are calling names to other people. There's all this harassment online and you're kind of, you'd notice it." And then you get used to it. You don't notice it anymore. So, whether it is misinformation that is around us, whether it is, you know, dishonesty, even things like the reason that we don't really notice climate change around us is because it's happening so, so, so slowly. And our brain doesn't respond to things that are constant or very, very slow. So, or risk, actually, we have a whole chapter about risk, risk adaptation, right? So, how you get used to taking risks and you don't notice the risks anymore. You underestimate the risks because you get used to that. One of the things I was thinking, so earlier on you talked about how when you were doing presentations on stage starting in a way that feels novel is a way to kind of bypass the minds filter that that's useful. That's used to people coming up on stage and saying, "Hi, I'm Tom from I don't know, and I'm going to tell you." And then your brain just goes, "Okay, we know what to do with this filter." And then generally in marketing as well, we have this term where we use a lot on our team where we'll say the word wallpaper. You don't notice wallpapers there. And so, whenever a message sounds like wallpaper, we know it becomes ineffective. So, when people do podcasts like this, they'll say things like, "Well, I can subscribe." Now, you've heard that 10,000 times. So, it works on no one. I'm asking you to like and subscribe, but you've heard the phrase. But if I say it in another way, if I say my mom's got a message for you and then my mom appears in a big, wonderful African voice and says, "This is my son's YouTube channel. Please do." Then, instantaneously, it bypasses the wallpaper filter and you're like, "What that?" And then the second thing I was thinking about when you talked about that is how we become kind of, we lose gratitude for things in our lives very quickly because we're becoming sort of desensitized and you use the example of our relationships. So, how does one stop themselves from becoming bored of their partner? Yeah. Actually, I have a few good answers, but I love your examples. I might use a few of them.

How do we reach people when marketing a product (01:27:55)

No, I was just thinking about it. I need to use one of my words. And I think what you're saying, and I'll talk about the relationship in a minute, but yes, exactly. What you want to do is surprise people, right? Exactly what you're saying. You need the brain to be surprised. I didn't expect that because what the brain is trying to do at all times, it's actually trying not to be surprised. The brain is trying to model the world, to have an internal model of what's outside so I can anticipate what's happening so then I can react in time, right? I want to know whether it's going to rain. I don't want to be surprised in the rain because I want to bring the umbrella ahead of time. So, it's all about I have the best model of the world in my mind so I can predict what's happened so I can react in time ahead of time. So, that's why we're not responding to things that are unexpected because the model in the brain already told us what is about to happen and when you surprise people that's when the neurons go and then it's attention, right? So, we actually talk about relationships and it seems that when you ask people, and this is from, I'm going to mispronounce her name, but a well-known relationship expert and she says that she's done studies and when you ask people, when do you feel most attracted to your partner? They say one of two things, either when you see them in an unexpected way, something that you're not used to, maybe they're talking to some strangers, maybe they're on a stage doing something and the second thing they say is when I'm away and when I come back. I mean, it's really resonating, right? It's like, I mean, I feel that a lot like when I'm kind of, I've been away for a while and I'm on the plane, ready on the way home and I'm like, oh, I can't wait to see everyone again. So, what that tells us is that we need a little bit of distance. I think that's what it says, right? That in fact, you might want to be away for a weekend, for a day or so on. And that kind of causes what we call, it's a bit tacky, but we call it "risk sparkling." Like, we actually got the term from Julia Roberts. My co-author happened to read interview with Julia Roberts and she was saying how her life, I mean, it's Julia Roberts, of course, like rich and privileged and all of that. But she was talking about her regular life and, you know, she has a couple of kids and her husband and she wakes up in the morning and there's breakfast and she brings them to school and then, you know, they go have a bike ride and lunch and then picks up the kids and she's like, well, if I did that every day, all day, for years and years and years, I'd probably think it was quite boring, you know, and not that great. But once in a few months, she goes away and does her filming or whatever and comes back and everything seems like "risk sparkling" again, right? Because it kind of feels like new again. So, you want to make feel things feel like they're new and one way to do it is just to take yourself to another place. Now, you could say, well, maybe I don't have money to go away for the weekend. Well, there's a few solutions for that. So, this was interesting because doing COVID, I got COVID and so I had to go down to the basement and so I had to spend, you know, five days or a week in the basement. First of all, it wasn't that bad. It was like a little camping experience and second of all, when like the few days were up, I felt like my home life was so amazing. So, you know, I came out of the basement. But it turns out, so there's a little exercise that Lori Santas recommends, who's a professor at Yale and she says, if you just imagine for a minute, like close your eyes and imagine your life without your partner, without like the great house that you have, without like the great job that you have, like if you really imagine it and think about it like that, then, you know, like the fear comes in and then when you kind of get out of that, you're like, oh, I appreciate it, right? And I know you have to probably do it more than two minutes here. But, and I feel that's so true when you have kind of, you know how you have a dream, you kind of wake up from this really terrible dream where you lost your partner or something like that and you, and you're like so appreciated. And so I, yeah, I've got reoccurring due of being falsely imprisoned for a community and I wake up, oh my god, my freedom. No, but what you've described there is, me and my friends have been talking about, and we call it desire management in our relationships, which is like actively managing the desire because we have a really good example in our, in our friendship circle of a friend who moved in with his partner on the second day and they didn't just move in together. They moved into a hotel room in the second day and they just, this was COVID or what? It was during COVID, but she, she lived on the other side of the world. So in order for them to be together, she was going to have to fly across and stay with him. And it was basically their second day. They moved into a hotel room together and desire very quickly drops and you, but there's also this collision of lifestyles. So like, oh my god, you've left the toilet seat up and you make the bathroom wet and there's these kinds of smaller things, which also are an impact, have a huge impact on desire. But then you're held together in a hotel room for three months, barely knowing this person, desire in that early phase of relationship should be, you know, it's normally like a little bit exciting and it's funny how that can kill desire so quickly. And then moving in and then, um, another friend of mine moved in straight away with somebody and they work together, live on top of each other. And I saw the same thing. So me and my friends came up with this term called desire management, where it's actually our jobs as a sort of in relationship to manage the desire, actively manage it. And this means, obviously, some people go for dates and they try and keep things new and fresh. But one of the best ways that I do it in my relationship is, um, my partner goes away all the time in so do I. And like she's been in India for the last four weeks. She got back yesterday, all the day before. It's like, feels brand new again. And she does it all the time. She's always flying away somewhere. Then I go do this training course in summer. I'm like, Oh my God, this is amazing. Cause then I really look, but then also it's funny you said that because, um, last night we were at our Christmas party. That's why everyone hears a bit pissed still and a bit slow and some of them missing. And, um, my girlfriend was really, really pushing me to go up in DJ. I've never really DJ'd before, but I've been learning for nine months and she was like pushing. She was like, we'll go get a U S, there was a DJ at the party. She was like, we'll go get a USB stick now. We'll go put it on there and you go up in DJ. And I, I noticed that when I went, I went home, I put some music on. I came back to the party and I DJ'd. I could see. I could see. Because it was seeing me in a new context, right? And it's what it's really like, highest that is probably quite attractive context. Um, and conversely, when she did her breath work sessions in London, and she had this room full of 25 people and she basically has them hypnotized. Like they're crying and screaming and she's doing this thing. It was so attractive for me to see that. See her in this new, it was almost like discovering a new person. Cause you also see that person from the eyes of the strangers to see them, right? So they see them as someone that they don't know, that they're not intimate with. And you kind of maybe see that, you get that point of view. Um, well, I can't wait to read that book as well. We have a closing tradition on the podcast where the last guest asks a question for the next guest, not knowing who they're going to be leaving it for.

Ending Remarks

Last guest question (01:35:01)

So let me see. People don't believe me when I say this, but I actually don't get to see the question beforehand. Um, okay. The question left for you is, can you describe what winning means to you? So it's a catch because I think what winning means to me is to get what I want. However, as we just said, once you get what you want, then you want something else. So, that's still the answer. Thank you so much, Tally. You write the best books. You really do. This conversation has been one of my favorite ever because you have a really remarkable ability to deliver very important information that's very actual in people's lives. Do the tied in with a story that makes it seem, um, that connects on emotional level, but then also support it with science and psychology. So thank you so much. It's an honestly a huge, I, I don't like to super fun. Yeah. I really, really mean it. Fantastic conversation. And I, I know already how much my audience are going to appreciate it because I can kind of predict because we're kind of the same people in the audience. So thank you so much for your time. Tally, it means a lot to me. Thank you for having me. Quick one from our longest standing sponsor here. I can't tell you over the last, and say over the last, really it's been about two and a half years. It was really, um, post pandemic, how much my health has become such a huge priority in my life. And I have this laser laser focused on what I'm putting into my body. It's funny because as you get older, you can start to feel the things you're putting into your body more and more and more. Um, and if I, if I put something into my body, especially things like gluten, if I put those things in my body, I feel them tremendously the next day. My energy levels and my sleep and everything in between. Heal has been probably the most important partner in my health journey because I've been in the boardrooms. I've been to their offices, tens and tens and tens and tens of times. I've seen how they make their decisions on nutrition. And I trust it. Most of my team that are in this room with me consume it and get the benefits of it too. So if you haven't already tried here, do so. If you see me wearing jewelry, there's one thing you will know for sure. And this has been the case since before their response of this podcast is that I'm wearing crafty jewelry. Their pieces are my favorite. They are my favorite. And as I said, if you ever see me wearing jewelry, I guarantee you it's crafty jewelry. Their new collection here is my favorite ever. It's the most affordable, brilliant, versatile, wonderful, high quality jewelry I've ever seen. And as I said, the meaning of the pieces, as you can see, if you look at some of these pieces, for me, of course, it's interpretation, but optimism, um, freedom. Those are the kind of hints I get through. My favorite piece of craftids of all time is actually a similar piece to the one that Conor McGregor has. Conor McGregor has a crafted piece. Um, and it's of the lion. If you're looking for male jewelry and you're looking for stuff that is high quality, that is high meaning, and that is aesthetically beautiful and on trend, look no further than crafted.

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