This game is about being in-the-moment. Being in-the-moment produces positive emotions. Positive emotions during savoring “create an upward spiral in our experiences, emotions, relationships, mental capacities, etc.,” according to Mirium Ufberg in this article.

Most, Best, First!Have you ever been around a person for whom so many things feel like a new experience? “This is the first time I’ve seen a flower that color!” Have you ever been around a person who tastes an apple pie with you at a restaurant, and says, “This is the best apple pie I’ve had in the past year!” And doesn’t that somehow feel good? Just that experience that you are with that person when she is tasting the best apple pie of the year. That’s a small example, but suppose someone says to you not only, “you made my day,” but “that’s the most wonderful thing I’ve heard all year.” Or what if you’re speaking with a colleague and he says, “Hey Senia, that’s the first time I’ve ever thought about this work situation that way!”

Being around people when they experience their MOST, BEST, FIRST is envigorating. It’s alive. And as Czsikszentmihalyi says, the question he would most want to ask all the people in the world is, “To what degree do you feel alive?”

The Most, Best, First GAME

When: At any time – home or work.

How Long to Play: 10 seconds.

Players: Alone, with one person, or with many.

Materials Needed: None.

Goal of the Game: To savor and find those items that are the “most, best, first” experiences for you. Aim for one per day.


  • “Last week in Milan, I had the most delicious gelato I had ever tasted – caramel flavor!”
  • “Today was the first switch-tables-for-each-course dinner networking meeting I’ve ever been to!”
  • This is the best book I’ve read all year!”
  • You can even just think it to yourself: “This might be best business advice I’ve ever heard on NPR!”

Recognize when you are with someone (or by yourself) and are experiencing a “most, best, first” moment – say it out loudly, celebrate it. Invite that person to realize how incredible it is for you in that moment. You and that person are making history this day, as Seth Godin describes it. You will look back on this day and say, “Remember when I tried pomegranate tea for the first time?”

Did you ever read The Most Dangerous Game? (Here it is if you want a fun 10-minute action-packed story).

Well, today, we’re all about the MOST MOTIVATING QUESTION. What question will get you excited, get you moving, and get you pumped?

In fact, if we want to look at it cynically, we can ask, “What is a question that well-polished motivational speakers ask the audience in order to get audience members convinced to follow the motivational speaker’s system?” I.e., this is an effective question because it can change the mood, expectations, and actions of the listener.

Let’s look at the components of such a mysterious question:
1) It will fill you with positive emotions such as happiness, awe, engagement – which is important because when you’re on an emotional high, you are more open to looking at broader solutions, according to research by Barbara Fredrickson.
2) It will energize you – important because then you can turn the question into action. “People who are persuaded verbally that they possess the capabilities to master given activities are likely to mobilize greater effort and sustain it than if they harbor self-doubts and dwell on personal deficiencies when problems arise,” says Albert Bandura.
3) It will make you feel confident – important because confidence is just about a mix of self-esteem and personal control, and these are two of four inner traits of happy people according to Ed Diener and David Myers.

So…. what is such a question?

The Most Motivating Question GAME

When: When you want to motivate a person or people.

  • At the start of a meeting
  • In setting up a healthy mindset for a close friend or family to take action on his/her issue
  • In starting to work with colleagues on a project

The Players: You and one or more people.

The Rules: Ask the question in a warm, open tone. If everyone if is a rush, preface the question with, “Before we figure out this particular solution, let’s see…”

The Question Itself:


Variations: “What are we doing right so far in this project?”
“Before we figure out this particular solution,
let’s see what we’re already doing right.”

You don’t want to lose what you’re already doing right when you move to do something else. Additionally, this creates:
1) a positive tone and gets everyone to think about the situation as a team,
2) energy because something something is already not-broken, and
3) confidence because without any didactic explanation, you’ve shown the team that they have already done things right before.

It’s that simple. What are we doing right already?
See Doug Turner’s article on using this question to open meetings.

This question leads to productive discussions:

  • “You want to become a better salesperson. What are you already doing right? What if you did more of that?”
  • “You want to race in the Master’s class cycling track finals. What are you already doing right in your training? What other things can you do to complement this training?”
  • “You want to spend more quality time with your kids. What are you already doing right? How can you add to what you’re doing while keeping what you’re already doing right?”

What are you doing right today? :)
Enjoy the game. Play often, see how people react.

I was in NY today and went to a Google speaker series talk by Luiz Barroso, Google Distinguished Engineer. The talk was “Watts, Faults, and Other Fascinating Dirty Words Computer Architects Can No Longer Afford to Ignore”.

The best part of the talk was that Luiz did what the Heath brothers so recommend in Made-to-Stick: he told a story. He told a story about the little guy overcoming the big guy. He told us at the beginning that this would be just like David and Goliath, like Seabiscuit. :) So who are these little guys who came over and said,

“Hey! Hey! Look at us! We’re important. Not only for computer design, but because we hear that these days you’re concerned about cost and reliability!!!! Look! Look! Look at us!!”

Two Little Guys The two little guys are the two newer research areas in computer design, and the two that are leaving the picture are two that were popular in the 90’s. In short, out with the MHz race (the race for more transistors) and out with the DSM race (the race for improved shared-memory machines). In with Mr. WATTS and Mr. FAULTS.

Meet Watts and Faults

Luiz gave us the big picture first, and showed how computers are becoming significantly energy-inefficient. Specifically, he said, suppose that you’re getting a server and the cost to power the computer over its life are much higher than the cost of the server hardware itself. Isn’t that a little strange? Shouldn’t you be a little worried? (Luiz mentioned that in an unlibertarian move the U.S. government is starting to be worried for you! On Dec 20, 2006, there was an act – in Congress or the House? who knows? – to research energy inefficiency in servers!!! Hallo! Since when is that the government’s business?)

Watts In any case, suppose actually YOU are worried instead of big brother being worried for you. If you’re worried about energy inefficiency, you should know a couple of things that may make you even more worried! A computer not processing any information uses HALF the power that it uses at full capacity. Luiz Barroso suggested that a good problem to resolve may be how to get a server to use less energy when it’s idling. This is the WATTS problem. A computer goes from 80W to 160W when going from idling to full capacity. On the other hand, a person goes from about 60W of energy at regular idling not doing anything and to about 1200W if that person is a serious athlete. Luiz says, “We are the energy equivalent of a three-year-old-PC… or of a light bulb.” There’s a lot more variability in energy burned. Can we get computers to do the same? Can we get computers to use 1/10 of the energy at idling compared to that at full jolt?

Disk Drives And then come in FAULTS. Luiz described the big, big problems if hard drives just fail out on you. So Google has a lot of monitoring now of the System Health infrastructure. But even though “system health” for, say, all the hard drives and all the servers is being measured, is it possible to predict which disk drive may fail? Luiz and two colleagues researched this and presented the results as two papers in 2007.

Their conclusion? Faults are not individually predictable – not predictable well for individual disk drives. But faults are somewhat predictable for a population of disk drives because as the number of machines increases, it’s extremely unlikely that they’ll all fail at the same time. And – interestingly – temperature doesn’t much have to do with failure of the drives… the assumption had always been that the cooler the temperature, the better – well, that’s not necessarily so important find Luiz and his colleagues.

So, in summary, WATTS are useful to think about because you can significantly decrease the costs of your company if you can decrease how much energy you use, and FAULTS are important to think about because even though you can’t predict them right now, maybe there will be new methods in the future to predict disk drive faults.

  1. Have Fun.
  2. Be in the Moment.
  3. ASK!
  4. Take Risks.
  5. Go to the Panels you Want to Go To.
  6. Talk to Those People You Want to Talk To.
  7. Forget the Sales.
  9. Send an Email Later that Night.
  10. HAVE FUN!!!!!!!

1) Have Fun. Everyone wants to be around someone who is having fun. Have fun – enjoy the people you are speaking to, enjoy the talks you are listening to.

2) Be in the Moment.
At conferences, it can be easy to be distracted and look around. But you’re not doing yourself any favors. If you’re speaking to someone and you’re looking around to see when the speakers from the last panel will come out so that you can say Hi to one of the speakers, the person you’re speaking to will not have a great experience, and you won’t have a great experience. In this case, the grass is not always greener. Solutions? Wait patiently if you’re waiting, and if you’re speaking to someone, give that person your full attention. It is much better to excuse yourself in advance, “Great to meet you, I’m going to go wait for someone right now,” than to be absentminded and preoccupied when speaking with someone.

3) ASK!
This is maybe the most important point. Ask questions. There is no such thing as a dumb question, or anaive question. Ask. You may be in a different field than another person. You may be used to different jargon. Ask. Have fun with asking questions. Be genuinely curious. Asking is fun.

4) Take Risks.
Do it! Just do it! If someone spoke on a panel, and you’d just love to say Hi, or ask something, JUST GO UP TO THAT PERSON. At a conference, everything is fair game. People are friendly. Take a social risk, and just do it. If you don’t tend to enjoy being extroverted, just act it for a few moments, and talk to whom you want to talk to. Remember The More, The More: the more you practice going up to people you want to speak to, the better you’ll be at this.

5) Go to the Panels you Want to Go To.
Every time you think, “let’s do this because I should,” you’re telling your brain, “I am willing to be bored, be exhausted, be broken but do this anyway.” Brains don’t like that – they like to learn, to play, to be ALIVE. Brains like you having fun. Go to a panel that seems the most fun to you in that time slot, the panel that seems most exciting. Any panel can be useful. Any. You can learn something anywhere. Go to the ones where you’ll have the most fun. Then you’ll get the most out of it.

6) Talk to Those People You Want to Talk To.
The points of (#1 Have Fun) and (#2 Be in the Moment) are that you are doing what you want to be doing. You are going to a conference for yourself usually. While at the conference, do what you want to be doing. Don’t go to speak to the technology folks or the finance folks because “it’s what you think you should be doing.” Do what you want to do. Your energy in doing what you want to do will make those interactions just that much more alive and engaging.

7) Forget the Sales.
You are not at the conference to sell. Every sales relationship is exactly that – a relationship. You’ve probably heard this, and it’s true – don’t ever think about closing a sale. Think about opening a relationship. The relationship may not ever lead to a sale. It doesn’t need to. Relationships are about energy, common interests, fun. The sales will happen as long as your product/service is great, and as long as you’re a real, ethical person. It’s too much stress at a large conference – and almost anytime really – to focus on “sell, sell, sell.” Change that to “enjoy, enjoy, ask questions.” After all, life is about living.

After (#3 ASK), this is my favorite. If you’ve met Jordan, who is launching a phone-info-online business, and then you meet Sarah, who has opened launched several related phone-info busiensses, suggest to Sarah, “Oh, if I see you and Jordan near each other, I’ll definitely introduce you. I think you’d enjoy meeting each other.” If you meet people who should be in touch with each other, ask the second person you meet whether you can put him in touch with the first person you met. Then ask the first person by email… “can I e-introduce you to so-and-so?”

9) Send an Email Later that Night.
If you meet someone you think you may want to keep in touch with, send an email later that night. Ideally, mention something specific that you and that person talked about – both for the person’s memory, and for yours! Business cards expire. If you don’t use a business card two weeks after you receive it, you might as well throw it away. Really. Business cards make sense if you’re in touch with that person, not to say, “Oh I once met such and such person at a conference.” Business cards make sense if you use them, not as collector art.

10) HAVE FUN!!!!!!!
And why do I emphasize having fun? Because everybody is stressed, everybody has an intense life. Let go, and things will come easily to you.*

* Why might things come easier once you let go and have fun more? Because of Fredrickson’s broaden-and-build emotion theory (that when you’re in a broad, good mood, you see more solutions and opportunities than when you’re in a closed lousy mood). Because of Seligman’s optimistic explanatory style (what you tell yourself about a situation affects how you react to that situation). Try it. It can’t hurt at one conference.

Enjoy the event!
If you see me with my nametag “Senia Maymin Positive Psychology,” come up to me and say Hi! Best,

Let’s talk about games.

That’s already an oxymoron on some levels! The point of games is to play them, not to talk about them. Still, why are games so hot? Why am I so big on games? You’ve seen me write about games. You’ve seen me talk about the feeling of being alive when you’re playing games.


  • The Thrill
  • The Competition
  • The Speed
  • The Creativity Needed to Win
  • Winning
  • Possibility of Affecting the Outcome
  • Not Knowing Until the End
  • Knowledge of Possibly Improving Each Time

I can tell you all these above, and yet. And yet! Those are WORDS! As Hamlet says, “Words, words, words!” There’s no point for words. Games are about action!

You think you can smack-talk your opponent? Go ahead, but let’s see if your skill holds up to your smack-talk. Larry Bird was always known for his smack-talk, and maybe priming his opponents for failure was EXACTLY what he was going for because it may have worked (so suggests the latest research). But even better, Bird’s skill ALWAYS held up on the court. ALWAYS.

Games are about using our best self to beat the competition.


Have you? Sure you have! Everytime you’re on deadline and you need to make a specific time. Everytime you want to complete something faster than you did it last time. Everytime you want this quarter to be better than last quarter. Everytime you count how many clients your company has. You’re always playing games.

But sometimes they feel like work. What would make those same games that you are right now not calling games and are possibly not considering as fun – what would make those games fun and productive for you and improve business for the company?

Sure, I know that’s a leading, rhetorical question…

I refer you to my favorite Simpsons quote of all time:

Lisa: Dad, do you even know what “rhetorical” means?

Homer: Do *I* know what “rhetorical” means?


Look, I’m not advocating going crazy with happiness juice, and just saying blindly, “Oh, let’s turn our work into fun.” I’m advocating asking yourself or your colleagues, “How can I get more of these components into my work?”

  • The Thrill
  • The Competition
  • The Speed
  • The Creativity Needed to Win
  • Winning
  • Possibility of Affecting the Outcome
  • Not Knowing Until the End
  • Knowledge of Possibly Improving Each Time

Remember, being wealthy is about having money and time. How can you enjoy your time at work more, leave more time for yourself outside of work, and show that “play” can get improved results? How can you put those elements in, and put them in in such a way that they improve the bottom line?

I know I’ve asked more questions above than I’ve answered. This week and next week, I’ll be writing a lot about GAMES and BUSINESS!

And today, I’m asking you: how do you think you could make work more like “play” and do so in a way that strengthens the bottom line?

Here’s a great press release:

How to Bounce Back From ‘Google Slap Three’

First of all, I immediately ask “What on earth is Google Slap Three?” so they’ve already got me with a


Then the opening paragraph is:
IRVINE, Calif., March 13 /PRNewswire/ — Horror crossed your face this morning when you logged in to find your Google AdWords account “slapped” — with your best keywords deactivated and their minimum bids jacked up to $10.00 a click. What happened, and what can you do?

  • There’s an EMOTION (“horror”), there’s ACTION (“slapped,” “crossed your face,” “deactivated” (this is a bit boring of an action word), and “jacked up”), and there’s a QUESTION. Not bad.

Finally, the text has some strong points too:

  • It has USEABLE ADVICE (“Make your landing page ‘about’ your keywords,” “Post more unique pages”), is about something in the NEWS that recently happened, and it ADDRESSES CONCERNS about that recent news item.

In short, if you’re playing the game of writing a great press release that MATTERS TO PEOPLE, here are the three take-aways from this great press release:

  1. Make it timely to news of the day
  2. Make it address concerns readers might have
  3. Make it have concrete suggestions (actions people can take)

… And if you want this press release to also grow your business (which is the goal of most press releases IMHO)…

  • Make it link back to you effectively – for a reason
    For example, that you’re the authority on how to beat Google optimization… I’m not sure this company completely did this (see below).

BELOW SMALL COMMENT: This might be just me being picky… when I click back to, it’s their generic homepage, with no additional advice or details about the Google news release. I would imagine based on the press release that they have books that are relevant to SEO or to marketing online? And one of their pieces of advice, ironically, was to create more unique pages relevant to the keywords that people used to get to those pages. So where are their SEO advice books? As one singer would say, they don’t make ’em easy to find.

What is harder than rock, or softer than water? Yet soft water hollows out hard rock. Persevere.
~ Ovid

If there is one key to creating what you want in your life, it is daily practice. When you repeat again and again, you learn so much about the habit you’re building and about yourself. There are nuances that you do not learn from a how-to guide. Such as how to persevere.

Why daily? And why action?

  • DAILY! Daily moves you toward putting in hours to develop your expertise and toward repeating an activity to develop discipline and focus. Whatever your regularity is, you build your own daily practice. You can choose if your daily means 5 days a week (work week daily) or seven days a week (whole week daily) or three times a week (M-W-F regularly).
  • ACTION! Action is a form of commitment. A thought can be transitory, passing. An action is you saying to the world, “I am ready and I am doing it.” An action is more powerful than a thought – by definition, Action = Thought + Activity.

But why do it? Why take regular, structured, self-scheduled daily action as opposed to acting whenever you feel like it?

The Deep Math Example. As my very good friend and a former math professor says,

“It takes a while to get into the problem. You need to sit with it at your desk for several hours at a time just to start to focus deeply enough to be able to create any new conclusions.”

It takes time to get deep enough into a subject that you are no longer skirting the surface.

The Ballroom Dancing Teacher Example. Have you found that some people who are excellent at what they do returrn to the basics from time to time? Like a yoga teacher taking a basic refresher course. Or an author going back to the structure of his characters? I know dance teachers who regularly take beginner classes. Why? Ballroom Dance
  • When you are at an advanced level, you get a lot more from beginner lessons. You start to see the nuanced distinctions that you didn’t notice at the beginning – “When I ask my students to ‘rock-step’ here, some are still thinking that they are rocking when the important distinction is that they are there-and-immediately back, on their toe and immediately forward… it’s more about the forward than it is about the rock-step back.” You start to see new ways of describing something, new ways of understanding and then being able to explain a concept.
  • You take the beginner class to come back to the beginner’s mind. To return to that joy that you loved about the activity to begin with, and to hear and see and feel and imagine what it is like to learn the steps for the first time. As Chip Heath and Dan Heath say in Made to Stick, we are sucked into the Curse of Knowledge: We are no longer able to often explain things to a five year old because we know too much detail. Avoid the Curse of Knowledge. Play as a beginner.
The Twyla Tharp Creativity Example. You make space for yourself – in your head and in your heart when you practice something regularly. You make space for yourself to be creative, to focus, to live in the moment. So much of life ends up being planning and rushing that unless you make the Creative Habit as Twyla Tharp says in her book, then you don’t ever create the discipline of creativity, the space for allowing yourself to do. That space is often only possible within the constraints of time allowed for that activity. Twyla Tharp
The Alaska Hiking Example. It is through action that you create a habit, and through habits that you create the life you want to live. According to Ann Graybiel, neural pathways – i.e. the pathways that create a new habit or new behavior pattern – form when you go over them again and again. Again and again. Like a hiking trail in Alaska worn by all the footsteps repeating over the ground again and again, so a new mental pathway forms when you repeat an activity. Best results are daily. Hiking
The Guitar Example. My guitar teacher years ago said, “The most important thing in learning guitar is daily practice. Even if you play 15 or 30 minutes a day, do just that. And if you have the choice to play once for 30 minutes or twice for 15 minutes, play twice for 15 minutes.” According to him and many other musicians, the mind learns when it starts a-new – when it comes to a project a-new. So scheduling that “new” regularly allows a habit to make that deep Alaskan hiking trail pathway. Guitar

And then, once you have taken the daily actions, keep track of them. Put a star on your wall calendar. Post about it on your blog. Write yourself an email accounting for that day. Track your progress. Roy Baumeister of Florida State University says (23-min interview) that one of the keys to creating a new habit is writing down those times when you have acted on that habit.

Is it really possible to achieve anything in life?
Let me ask that another way: what is harder than rock, or softer than water?

Lesson and Take-Away: 1) Take daily action and 2) write down your daily actions!

Images: math, dance, Twyla Tharp, hiking path, guitar.

Senia Maymin Senia Maymin, MBA, MAPP is an Executive Coach, and presents workshops to corporations about Positive Psychology. Senia is the Editor of Positive Psychology News Daily, and posts her latest ideas about positive psychology, business, and coaching at Senia’s bio.

Remember when it was a big marketing idea when (I think it was Snapple) changed the “expires by” date to the “enjoy by” date! Just a small change of perspective.

Shake Well and Buy Often Today, I read on my Silk soy milk container: “SHAKE WELL & BUY OFTEN.”

I don’t at all get upset by over-the-top, in-your-face advertising, like the cute phrase “BUY OFTEN.” It actually makes me smile.

But what does bother me is when you’re not expecting to be sold to, and it’s a roundabout sale – that makes my stomach churn. Like a person who goes up to you on the street, and you think he or she may need help with directions, so you wait for the directions question, and after, “Hi, how are you?” you might get some bid, like, “I work for the pizza store over there. You should stop by,” and a brochure handed to you. NOT COOL.

“BUY OFTEN” makes me smile.
“How are you doing?” follow by “Have you tried this?” makes me queasy.

Maybe what I should try saying to someone who walks up to me on the street is … “SHAKE WELL” before I walk away.
“Have you tried—-?”
“Thanks, I haven’t. SHAKE WELL!” :)

Think of any Entrepreneur. Think of any business person, doctor, writer, actor. You’re likely thinking of a successful business person, doctor, writer, actor. That person that you’re thinking of got there partly – maybe mainly! – because of self-regulation.

“Self-regu-what?” you might be asking. I know – long word, simple meaning. Self-regulation. Self-regulation is the personality process to exert control over your thoughts, feelings, and actions. In short, self-regulation is you restraining yourself, putting good constraints on yourself.

Self-regulation is:

  • Self-discipline: telling yourself to do something at some time
  • Focus: telling yourself to alert your mind to one project or one goal
  • Self-control: creating good constraints for yourself

Self-regulation is what anyone who’s ever gotten anywhere in the long run uses.

  1. You need to get better at your game and expertise is trainable. You need to put in that 10,000 hours of practice to get yourself there.
  2. You need to get more well-known at your game and you need to put in that 10 years of persistence to get you there.
  3. And, finally, you need to make a lot of the self-regulation in your life into automatic behavior (like Jen says in this comment) because then you can free your mind to focus on reaching those things you really want to accomplish. As we know, self-regulation works like a muscle: the more you work it, the easier it becomes to do more and more of it – in more and more areas of your life!

Think of that person who is successful. That person self-regulates in a major way. The one who self-regulates wins!