Be Happy…Make Money (in that order)

I’ve just finished a 5 hour stint on my feet at my son’s school Christmas Fair. I was manning the bottle tombola. This is where you sell people two raffle tickets for a pound. Pick the ticket that’s on the bottle and you win the bottle of astonishingly addictive alcohol booze drink. We cleared £400. I really should be paid by MI5 for this – keeping the revolution at bay by drugging the nation.

I was amazed by some of the statements I heard.

“Oh, I never win anything.”

Now in a random raffle ticket selection process, what you think your chances are doesn’t actually matter. But when your self-image of never being a winner makes you take my 2-tickets-for-a-quid offer instead of my 5-tickets-for-2-quid offer, you do, in fact, win fewer times for the quids you spend.

And so the re-enforcement process continues, making what you think is true come true. Belief drives action drives result drives belief. Up or down. Helpful or unhelpful. Right or wrong. Your brain and body don’t care what’s real, they use a combination of belief and confirmation bias (you lose – “told you I never win”; you win – “I was lucky this time”), to turn your beliefs into your reality.

It was suggested to me…

…by my fellow MI5 agent on the booze tombola that things would get busy towards the end because it is commonly believed that as the number of unselected raffle tickets diminishes, the chances of selecting a winning ticket would increase.

Despite this being utter tosh (the ratio of unselected tickets to un-won bottles is invariant), there was a rush at the end with mutterings of “I’ve gotta win now…” The belief drives the action.

I should have put the price up.  

I was doing my best…

…Alan Sugar “dahn the mahket” routine when I told one man who had just selected two losing tickets that he’d used up all his bad luck now and if he gave me another quid he was bound to win. I laughed. He didn’t. He put his hand in his pocket and pulled out another quid. I thought he’d know I was joking. I was laughing after all.

Which takes me nicely to a study published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences.

These are serious people…

…no woo woo. Turns out those who consider themselves to be happy at a young age (before they earn money) end up earning more money at a later stage (29 years old). The sample size was 10,000 people. They did the research properly, over many years, controlling (i.e. discounting) known success factors like education level, IQ, self-esteem and height (yes, height…is a causative factor for success). Damn my Scottish genotype. Again.

The researchers went a stage further. They looked at siblings who shared the same parents and presumably the same environment…same thing. Happier sibling = richer sibling.

It has been suggested…

…by an observing Harvard Business School behavioural scientist that positive thinking should be taught to kids to improve their future success. Before you all go REALLY!!!, remember the fact that despite this being more obvious than the nose on your face, our schools DO NOT ACTUALLY DO THIS, instead preferring to prepare our children for….oh I can’t go on.

It was then postulated that the extra success the happy people feel may be due to the fact that they are more motivated to do better. (People are actually paid to work this stuff out you know.)

Of course happiness plays a part in success. A big part. And maybe happiness is genetic, nobody knows. But even if it is genetic, that is only part of the story; seldom destiny. Environment plays a part too, and when I say that I’m looking at YOU.

You have some levers. You can be happier.

There are five things to work on…

To quote myself, as I often do…

1. Identity – define who you are and act accordingly

2. Self-efficacy – just do it, every single time

3. ABC (an emotional intelligence model) for grown ups

4. Optimism – learn it if you’re not so inclined

5. Resilience – don’t let undesired results blow you off course

It really, really is all inside your head.

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