The big thing about a new month is that things seem doable – the possibilities seem endless… how can we hold onto this kind of feeling throughout the month?!

How can we increase our challenges regularly during the month?

* One way is to have a system, a graph, or a method to map your monthly challenges. Jeff talks about that briefly here.

* Another way to increase challenge is to plan your future out before it happens. When I have a client meeting the next day, I already plan what we will discuss, and suggestions for the client for homework – I come in with a Word document outline. And I don’t mind if it changes during the session, but there are things that are the increased trajectory of the client’s path, and I want to respect that in planning for the session rather than just have us both talk about what is top of mind that morning. As Jon Bon Jovi is said to have said, “Write your future, but do it in pencil.” I like that. Map it out – plan it – be bold – be specific. But be open to change.

* Another way is to have a buddy system or a reminder system. My friend D is very big on this, and she makes the other person work harder because of it. It’s empowering and encouraging.

Do you have other ways to increase your challenge during the month?

I’ve been coaching more job seekers lately in my coaching practice. My process is generally Assessment – Targeting – Self-Presentation. Here are some tips that I give to my clients regularly.

  • Assessment – Know what you LOVE in addition to what you’re good at.
  • Assessment – Know how to tell your story. Practice it often.
  • Assessment – Know several specific projects that describe you at your best and at what you most enjoy. Make sure you mention these later in the interiews.
  • Targeting – Know your geography, industry, and function.
  • Targeting – Aim high.
  • Targeting – Target many jobs.
  • Targeting – Who do you know who is related to the industry and function that you want?
  • Self-Presentation – Target your resume to the job.
  • Self-Presentation – Behavioral questions during interviews: brainstorm three answers to each of about ten questions, then choose the best of the three answers.
  • Self-Presentation – Practice consulting-type open-ended problem questions, such as the number of pencils in Alaska.
  • Self-Presentation – Rehearse before the interview how your body will behave if you get a question that stumps you. Examples: repeating the question slowly, clarifying the question, sitting forward in your chair – whatever works for you. Practice these with a friend.

What are some additional tips you have for job-seeking?
What’s the smartest job-seeking tip you have?

Welcome to Friday Questions. Come on it, and answer in the comments!

My favorite Seth Godin post so far this year:

[Rather than helping beginners get better at something,] you’re way better off helping the perfect improve. You’ll also sell a lot more management consulting to well run companies, high end stereos to people with good stereos and yes, church services to the already well behaved.

With Positive Psychology News Daily, we’re targeting people who work in and do research in Positive Psychology as well as people new to the field (“What is Positive Psychology?“) This Seth post is illuminating to me because yes, the people who get most excited about what we’re doing on are the people passionate about the field to begin with: our best comment discussion people, our best guest articles, our best email responses – all come from people in the field and in the process of expanding the field!

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.

Today, I was a guest on the FairGame radio program hosted by Faith Salie. Listen to the 6-minute segment of my interview HERE.

The interview was in reaction to this NYTimes article: Russia’s government mandate to broadcast at least 50% good news? You might think that a Positive Psychologist might support something like that, but Faith was fairly surprised at my answer … enjoy the interview.

The program aired tonight at 8pm on about 25 stations nationwide.

This was a fun interview to do, and I wish Faith, her producers, and the whole program huge success. After looking at her name and photo several times, I realized Faith was a year ahead of me at Harvard undergrad. We were in the same house – Leverett House.

This Friday (April 27), 10:30-11:30am EST, I’m speaking at the Business Women’s Growth Summit.

This is a virtual conference. Here are the bios of all the speakers, and here is the list of talks.

My talk is “The Science of Happiness for Business Owners.”
Click here to register.

“The Science of Happiness for Business Owners”
Presented by Senia Maymin

There is a field that is even younger than the Internet – Positive Psychology! Positive Psychology was launched in 1998 as a branch of psychology that focuses on what is right with people. Just as Psychology after World War II studied diseases and illnesses, so now too, Positive Psychology studies optimal human functioning – happiness, success, and productivity. Senia Maymin is a graduate of the first-ever worldwide Masters’ Program in Positive Psychology at UPenn in 2006.

In this workshop, Senia discusses the main findings of Positive Psychology, the so-called “Science of Happiness,” and specific applications for business owners. Further bolstering the research findings by her own experience as a serial entrepreneur and as an Executive Coach to entrepreneurs, Senia creates an interactive workshop that gives participants actual take-away techniques to apply to their lives and their businesses.

Here’s a post by Angela Booth on FAST WRITING (via Anne). Angela recommends creating a checklist for yourself, a process. She suggests a process in which she brainstorms, writes an outline, gets data, writes more of a draft. A key component of her list that I want to point out is “leave it for a day or longer.” Then she returns and completes other editing. Using her system, you would probably re-read the intro paragraph, say oh, five-twenty times. That would mean that you’d have five-twenty opportunities to rewrite something! Maybe writing faster is not about speed, but about easy editing. Like putting on layers of clothing before going outside in the winter, maybe writing faster is about putting on layers of betterment to your writing. And the more layers, the more opportunity to improve.

Here’s a post by Idea Matt on FAST READING (these specific ideas are from Jason Womack). Jason says “he reads a book four times:

  1. Table of contents, glossary, index.
  2. Anything in bold, titles, and subtitles.
  3. First line of every paragraph.
  4. Entire book

Here’s the twist: Steps 1-3 should only take about 10 minutes.”

Ok, see the similarity to the faster writing? You may be starting to suspect that the above two tips are not only about faster writing and reading, but also about more thorough writing and reading. Why are the above two methods more thorough? Because you review the material again, and again, and again. In the outline, in the TOC, in re-reading the same sections when you edit.

So…. there’s a fun little conclusion we can make from the above two faster tips.

You know more when you review material fairly frequently. Here’s an example: I put together a workshop on “Why Optimism Is Good for your Health” last week. I put the workshop together in a week and presented it. Then I think back to it today to review it in my head in preparation for giving the workshop again to a new audience, and – guess what?! – it’s a little hazy. Not a lot hazy. I could probably recreate the slides without looking at them again, but a bit hazy – it would take me time. Why is this? Because I did my presentation writing and rewriting and creating all in one fell swoop. I didn’t really break it up into segments or smaller chunks. I didn’t do the “let it sit for a day or two.”

Here’s a question for you:

If you have a choice of repeating something MORE OFTEN or FOR A LONGER PERIOD OF TIME, which do you think will help you know the information better?

Bing bing bing! You got it. MORE OFTEN. You can see what I wrote here about the immense, powerful benefits of daily action. Remember, musicians often recommend that you practice in two sessions of 15 minutes rather than in one of 30 minutes.

Do whatever is important to you – do that repeatedly, regularly – do it so it’s second nature. :) ENJOY!

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.