Thursday, March 31, 2011

Being Happy, Being Smart

We have a good friend who has met the financier Warren Buffett. Her description of him: down to earth, interested in people, happy. If you look at his pictures, Mr. Buffett looks like a pleasant individual.

A few years ago, we had the excellent good fortune of meeting E.O. Wilson, the evolutionary biologist and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner—for science writing, no small feat. Our description of him is very similar to that of our friend’s description of Mr. Buffett’s. He too, looks like a pleasant individual.

We forgot to mention, of course, that they’re both brilliant in their respective fields.

Another brilliant man who always seems to have a smile on his face: Bill Clinton.

We combed through Google for all these photos because of a Harvard Business Review blog that talked about whether happy people are dumb. Duh!

The author, a former Harvard teaching fellow, says it is unhappy people who aren’t living up to their potential. We need to release that dopamine to let us enjoy and be happy, and to get the secondary benefits: dopamine turns on the brain’s learning centers. Without the dopamine, it’s tougher for us to learn. The higher the level of positive emotion, the more you learn, the more you create.

“Doctors primed to be positive come to the correct diagnosis 19% faster when primed to be positive as opposed to negative. Salespeople have 37% higher levels of sales when optimistic. … A meta-analysis of employees … reveals that nearly every single business outcome improves when a brain is positive. Happiness is a significant advantage,” author Shawn Achor says.

Being happy isn’t being na├»ve, or ignorant. In fact, the Greek playwright Sophocles said wisdom is the supreme part of happiness.

There’s nothing dumb about that.

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