The Upside of Your Dark Side – Why being your whole self – not just your “good” self – drives success and fulfillment
by Todd Kashdan & Robert Biswas-Diener
Review by Doug Hensch
Some time in January of 2005, I arrived home from a stressful day at work and an hour’s worth of traffic to find the latest issue of Time magazine in the mail. On it’s cover was a big, yellow smiley face as the issue was dedicated to something called “positive psychology.” I devoured the issue and purchased several books on the subject since I was fascinated by the fact that psychologists were actually studying happiness using the scientific method.
A funny thing happened to me over the next couple of months…my happiness started to drop. I was practicing gratitude all the time and doing my best to live and work in my strengths, among other positive psychology recommendations but it was having the reverse effect.
by Gabriele Oettingen
Review by Doug Hensch
Several years ago, I set out to build a suite of online tools to help people become happier and more resilient. The plan was to use what we have learned in the last 40 years from the field of Positive Psychology to help people.
Prior to this effort, I co-founded a start-up web site that did just this. We had over 100,000 individuals sign up with several thousand paying fees for additional functionality. People were active on the site and getting happier. In addition, our growth trajectory was fantastic and conversion rates that were way above industry standards. I felt confident that I could duplicate this and build a new, great company on a shoestring budget. All I needed was a little positive thinking, right? Unfortunately, the site didn’t take off and I wasted thousands of dollars on the effort…
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In 1981, Marcus Dupree was being recruited to play football at most of the nation’s top collegiate programs. Most experts and coaches said that, in fact, he was the most highly recruited high school player ever. And, the praise did not stop there. These same experts and coaches said that Dupree was probably the best running back – EVER! This is a pretty big claim. And, it’s a heavy burden for a 17-year old kid out of Philadelphia, Mississippi.
ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary series recently told Dupree’s story. It was titled, “The Best That Never Was.” From what I can remember about Dupree (I was only 10 at the time but an avid football fan) and from reading the title, I was expecting a real-life story about another troubled athlete who missed an opportunity to be his best. In fact, the first 75 minutes painted this exact picture: recruiting violations, his mother getting a new house from his university, getting out of shape, getting injured from being out of shape, forfeiting a scholarship at the University of Oklahoma, and on, and on… I felt some sympathy for Dupree but quickly squashed those emotions when I realized that he was making some very poor decisions. A brutal knee injury ended his pro football career almost before it began. And, of course, almost all of his earnings were squandered.
Years ago, when I was trying to find the “right” job, a friend of mine said, “Doug, you’re looking for happiness in the wrong place.” And, conventional wisdom would say that, in a severe recession, just be happy that you have a job. Layoffs are still happening. The recovery is apparently slowing down, and new jobs are not being created at the rate that most would like to see. But, this does not change the fact that job satisfaction still matters for employers and employees.
Second, dissatisfied workers are more likely to look for employment elsewhere. Some experts estimate that employee turnover can cost as much 150% of an employees’ base salary. Show me a CEO that wouldn’t want to save on that expense!
Finally, we spend more hours at work than with family, friends, or on leisure activities. Studies show that we actually find more ‘flow’ at work where it is sometimes easier to pursue specific, meaningful goals.
Why don’t your prospective employers, clients, and other key players follow up with you when they say they will? Don’t they take you seriously?
Let’s say you just had your best job interview ever. All the stars were aligned. Your responses to the recruiter’s questions by phone were pitch perfect. Then, on the big interview with the boss, your conversation was seamless. You were not only on the same page—you could have co-written the book. Your exchanges with her colleagues were in sync too. Later, the recruiter calls to tell you you’re a frontrunner. When will you find out if you got the job? In a week, you’re told.
A week passes and no word. As hard as you try not to slow down your search while you’re waiting, you’re tired of looking for a job. All the more so if you’re an introvert. The process of constantly reaching out is especially draining for you. Not to mention your preference to immerse yourself in your work rather than talk about your stellar accomplishments (repeatedly, while networking, in cover letters, and on interviews).
The upshot of my last post here on Some Bosses Live in a Fool’s Paradise is that the best bosses stay in tune with how their words and deeds are construed by their followers, but there is a lot about being a human being and wielding power over others that makes such perspective-taking difficult.
One area where self-awareness is particularly hard to gain has to do with one’s level of assertiveness. Bosses often can’t tell when they’re pushing people too hard versus not challenging them sufficiently. But as research conducted at Columbia University by Daniel Ames and Frank Flynn suggests (see this pdf), striking the right balance between being too assertive and not assertive enough is immensely important to being (and being perceived as) a great boss.