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Gini Dietrich

Is Happiness the Same As Being Dumb?

By: Gini Dietrich | March 23, 2011 | 
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Are happy people dumb?

I just read that phrase in a Harvard Business Review blog and was offended. Because I’m happy. And I’m not dumb. But, of course, it enticed me to read on.

The blogger, Shawn Achor, says,

These sentiments are not uncommon. I believe we have a cultural assumption that happy people are anti-intellectual, delusional, or shallow. We’ve all heard the saying that “ignorance is bliss.” But, in truth, society has a fundamental ignorance about bliss.

Here’s part of the problem. Everyone knows someone who is brilliant and unhappy. And everyone knows someone who is successful and not happy.

Sure. But do they go hand-in-hand? We all know money doesn’t buy happiness. Does this mean, now, that intellect doesn’t mean happiness, either?

My Vistage Chair has a theory: People are put on this earth to have relationships with children (not necessarily your own, or maybe he just tells me that to make me feel better), to have a relationship with some sort of higher being that drives your values and beliefs, and to live your passions. If you have all three, you will be happy.

Achor’s premise is similar. And no, you don’t have to be dumb.

Happiness is the single greatest competitive advantage in the modern economy. Only 25% of your job successes are predicted based upon intelligence and technical skills, though we spend most of our education and most companies hire based upon this category.

The “silent 75%” of long-term job success is based upon your ability to positively adapt to the world: Optimism, social support creation, and viewing stress as a challenge instead of as a threat.

So the question I leave you today is this: What are you doing every day to increase your “silent 75%”? Let’s hear it!

P.S. Erica Allison, did you see “viewing stress as a challenge instead of a threat”? Aren’t you glad you gave up stress for Lent??

* Thanks to 909Sickle for the image

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

122 comments
janbeery
janbeery

Great Post Gini! What we're doing each day to increase our "silent 75%" is to remain relevant and roll with the environment. How do we stay ahead of the curve for our clients? How does this position us as leaders/experts in our category to navigate with and for our clients and our own brand?

Shoot, if Katie sees this post, I'm going to be hit with blog topics to write about!

Lyn Lomasi
Lyn Lomasi

Awesome post! I am very happy, not dumb, and I fit the Vistage theory. I'm living my passions, doing it for the kids, and loving life. So it just might be right. My personal motto is this: "Onward and upward...all forward thinkers are welcome in my elevator!" :)

abarcelos
abarcelos

Such a great post! I'm mostly happy (and sure as heck not dumb) and use stress and negative situations as drivers to learn from. At the same time, sometimes I wonder, am I delusional? Ha. I've found that whenever you're positive, even the worst situations work out. Always. So why waste time freaking when things are beyond your control? This is just my POV, one person. And it took me a long time to get here and I'm stayin'!

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

I completely agree with @jackielamp - happiness is a choice. I tend to get all Buddhist when I start talking about happiness. Sorry in advance. I struggle all the time with wanting more, bigger, better and then I stop myself and remind myself that I am grateful for what I have. Life is an adventure, and we make the choices in our lives to be happy. It especially hit home with me, because I left wonderful to come work with you, @ginidietrich ! for even MORE and BIGGER wonderful, and greater challenges. Some good thought provoking things here. : )

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

Yes, Happiness technically is being Dumb and Ignorant. Not really Dumb. But if you read the Tao Te Ching or Tao of Pooh we complicate our lives through education, learning etc and thus bring ourselves misery. It is the only thing about Taoism I do not agree with!

That said the example from the Tao of Pooh makes sense. They say watch a toddler open a door for the first time. They will be amazed. They will do it over and over for hours laughing at it. And how we are incapable of such amazement in a general sense. Most of us get swept up in so much data and things in our lives we don't stop to be amazed. So glad I do not have this problem. But then I am Taoist.

My issue with education is I love to contemplate from the universe down to the microverse in wonder and not sure if I could do it the same way if I was uneducated. Though I would say the Jehovah Witnesses would have an easier time when the come by to talk with me.

mdbarber
mdbarber

Such a great post. I'm reminded of my mom who always said to keep smiling as it takes a lot less energy and makes people wonder what you're up to. I find it's just so much easier to go through the day with my glass half full than empty. It's exhausting to do it the other way. Can't say I always do this but it is a goal.

MimiMeredith
MimiMeredith

I'm so happy you wrote this. And I think your Vistage chair is brilliant!

jessostroff
jessostroff

I love this. I struggle on a daily basis with a close friend who believes that I'm ignorant for striving to be happy all the time, and that being 'content' is more important than being 'happy' because happiness comes and goes. He believes that if you are content with your day-to-day the way it is, then you're happy. But I believe that you need to strive for that extra thing that makes you feel amazing, whatever it is. I don't think he has experienced true bliss because he never pushes for more. It's partly ignorance, but mostly fear. Because when you're really happy, you're afraid to lose that. But I think as long as the happiness outweighs the sadness, you're doing just fine.

jackielamp
jackielamp

I love this post!

In my mind, happiness is a choice. I'm not saying you need to force it where it's not, but there is an upside to everything. And sometimes you need to CHOOSE to see it. Bad things happen. Life is stressful. We can't win them all. But do you dwell on that, or do you find a way to move forward? It's about accepting situations, knowing who you are, and living life accordingly.

It's also about perspective. If you're unhappy, maybe you haven't taken the time to put things into perspective.I had a terrible health issue requiring some very invasive surgery. It was the most painful thing I've ever experienced. But you know what? There are people out there suffering much worse. There are people who don't have family and friends supporting them through those times. Or people who don't have the means to even get the surgery to solve the problem. Consider it that way.

Instead of complaining or being unhappy and asking, "why did this happen to me?" we should consider asking "what can I do to change the things I'm unhappy about?"

And now I will step down off my soapbox. Sorry for writing you a book in the comments.

GoBeyondIdeas
GoBeyondIdeas

I'm thrilled to see this post! Being someone who is generally optimistic I've had people presume that there was something I wasn't 'getting' about life. The contrary is true imho; I'm here to be, not do - as long as I can I simply choose to be a positive version of myself, rather than a negative one. Thanks!

Marcus_Sheridan
Marcus_Sheridan

If you're happy and you know it, don't be afraid to show it ;-)

What am I doing to be happy Gini? I think the biggest key is focusing on giving as much value to other as possible, and then letting the chips fall as they may. Relationships---that's what makes me happy.

Marcus

meganbeausang
meganbeausang

If I were in the office I would give you a big hug. I love that happiness is "the silent 75%." Coming out of the financial services industry, I can tell you, it is so true. No matter how much money my old colleagues made, they were the most miserable people on the face of the planet. There is a reason my old company doesn't exist anymore. :) Thank god I am at a place that makes me happy! Success is right around the corner!

To answer your question, first of all, I made a huge gigantic career change last year. But on a daily basis, I try to learn one new thing about our industry and/or how to better myself in my role. Every day i ask myself - what am I going to learn today?

EricaAllison
EricaAllison

Wow. If Happiness is the single most competitive advantage in the modern economy, then I have this thing all wrapped up! Seriously, I make it my mission to be happy. I chose to do what I do in life because it makes me happy. I realized a long time ago that doing something simply for the money alone does not equate to happiness. In fact, the more I do something that is purely for the money and has no passion or happiness attached to it, the more I hate it and the less likely I am to be successful doing it. No one wins.

Life really is too short. Far too often, people view my approach (and the one you've written about here) as being naive or even self-centered. To which I reply, heck yeah, it's self-centered. If I don't look after my happiness, how can I pass that on to my kids, my husband or anyone else in my life? It's like the standard speech given to us on airplanes before take off: If you're traveling with children or someone who needs assistance, and it's time to put the oxygen mask on, take care of yours first!

Naive? Maybe, but I prefer to view it as adventurous and possessing a zest for living. Thanks for including me here @ginidietrich ! I'm honored for the mention!

Katie Gutwein
Katie Gutwein

@janbeery You're busted!! Take those questions and turn the answers in to blog posts!

Gini, I love this post. As a glass-half-full kinda gal (who is not dumb, might I add), I am a firm believer in "attitude is everything." Of course, we're all human and there are days when our attitudes are less than perfect. That's why it's so important to surround ourselves with people who are also happy :).

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Lyn Lomasi Twice in less than a week?! Woo hoo! And I'll get on your elevator any time!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Lisa Gerber Well, we certainly have a bigger city and more restaurants, but Idaho has skiing. And snow. And skiing.

wabbitoid
wabbitoid

@HowieG Unlearning isn't the same as being dumb or ignorant. It means letting go of a lot of cultural baggage - prejudices and assumptions more than knowledge itself. It also means not kidding yourself and being able to accept things as they are first and foremost. From Rosenthal's translation of Tao Te Ching 81:

The sage seeks not to have a store of things or knowledge,

for he knows, the less of these he has, the more he has,

and that the more he gives, the greater his abundance.

The way of the sage is pointed but does not harm.

The way of the sage is to work without cunning.

But your emphasis on being amazed works for me, too. The world is amazing in its own ways - which are very good to get to know for their own benefit. It's when people are awfully sure of how right they are that things tend to break down a bit. :-)

mdbarber
mdbarber

You get so much further with honey and sugar...

jennalanger
jennalanger moderator

@mdbarber Part of that was my yearbook quote senior year of high school :) It goes along with it takes a lot less muscles to smile than to frown.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@mdbarber Or my mom who sings, "If you chance to meet a frown" as often as she can. It drove us crazy as kids. Now we just roll our eyes at her. But both of our mothers are very wise.

Narciso17
Narciso17

@mdbarber Yepper - Being a Grouch Takes ALOT of Work...Makes Sense Why The 'Angry' Have Ulcers...Bad Vibes Can Wear a Person Down...!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@jessostroff I'd actually be really interested in having a conversation with your friend. If it helps, *I* don't think you're ignorant for striving to be happy all the time. I think that makes you the smartest of us all.

Narciso17
Narciso17

@jessostroff

What's More, You Can Get Some Moments Of Happiness Throughout the Day...

- with a song

- cool glass of water

- saltwater taffy

- gentle breeze

Doesn't Have to Be Quite So 'Big' ... Little Things Go a Long Way...!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@jackielamp You know what makes me happy? Shoes! And you know what else makes me happy? The shoe closet code I'm about to share with you! I'll tweet it to you later today. I love your perspective, too. You're right - when you put things in perspective, life doesn't seem so bad after all.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@GoBeyondIdeas I love, love, love this attitude! So much, in fact, I'm going to refer back to it when I'm having a bad day. I'm with you - being optimistic has nothing to do with not "getting" it.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Marcus_Sheridan Um, I think it's...if you're happy and you know it, clap your hands! LOL! Relationships DO make you happy. That's very apparent in your online dealings. And the fact that you showcase your adorable kids on your blog.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@meganbeausang Success had better be right around the corner or I'm going to end up killing someone (likely myself). OK. Not really. But if we remember our #3 value I think we'll all remain happy.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@EricaAllison I'm with you...people think I'm naive. And maybe I am. But Mr. D is as smart as they come and he ALWAYS sees the best in people. Always. It's something I've learned from him. It may be naive, but it sure is a nice way to live.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Katie Gutwein @janbeery My college roommate would throw the shades open every morning and exclaim, "Good morning, Mr. Sun!' Every. Morning. I pretended I hated her for it, but I secretly loved it.

janbeery
janbeery

@Katie Gutwein yeah yeah!
FYI, Katie is not only the blog Nazi, she's our "well, at least the sun is out" person in the office!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@rustyspeidel @HowieG I love those books, too. But I don't think they state that being happy is technically being dumb or ignorant. Happiness is a state of mind that has nothing to do with your intellect level.

mdbarber
mdbarber

Our mothers are (or in my case was) wise. When I'm talking with my own kids and find myself using her phrases, it is a constant reminder of the foundation we have. Pretty lucky, I'd say. @ginidietrich

jennalanger
jennalanger moderator

@Narciso17 @jessostroff It's always good to have a list of small things that make you happy so you can always bring up your mood! Can I add puppies to that list? :)

Griddy
Griddy

@ginidietrich @EricaAllison People often mistake happiness and friendliness as being naive. Seeing the good in people is having a positive attitude towards life. It means giving people the benefit of a doubt if there is one. There's nothing wrong with that. You can be friendly, you can be happy and you can be cautious when your gut tells you to be. Mr. D is right.

And you my dear Gini are everything but naive!!! Being nice (genuinely) doesn't mean you're dumb. It means you have values and principles and that you're comfortable enough with yourself.

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