What makes us happy/unhappy?


What you may find surprising is that money doesn’t make us happy. Disagree?

According to Daniel H. Pink (author of ‘Drive’), as long as we’re compensated adequately, more money won’t incentivize us to work harder. People want autonomy in their jobs as well as more time off. However, for those that are under compensated they will likely be demotivated. So if you’re working a job that doesn’t fulfill you but you’re adequately compensated chances are you’ll eventually leave even if you are rewarded with a significant raise/bonus.


According to TIME magazine (The Science of Happiness: New Discoveries For A More Joyful Life), people in relationships are happier than those that are not. However, those that are in an unhappy marriage are worse off than being divorced.

In terms of holding grudges, Robert Waldinger indicated (in a TED talk) that grudges eat away at us and affect us negatively in many aspects of our lives. Relieving ourselves of grudges can go a long way in repairing relationships.

Material things:

We all look forward to buying new things whether its a new car, a new house, or maybe a new suit. Unfortunately, that feeling doesn’t last. We quickly become bored of material things. In fact, they never truly satisfy us because the more we have the more we want. It is often the case that the best part of the whole ordeal is the act of buying the item itself.

Spending money on more meaningful things tends to lead to more happiness. For example, taking a vacation provides us with stories that can retold over and over (even if it isn’t 100% true). For some people, the majority of enjoyment is felt in the anticipation of the vacation. So the lesson learned is, plan your vacations as soon as you can. You’ll enjoy it more!

The Marshmallow Challenge

No, it’s not a competition to see who can fit the most marshmallows in their mouth.

It’s a design exercise that you could do individually or as a group.  More importantly, it’s a lot of fun.

Some use this exercise as a team building event while others incorporate this into their Agile Retrospectives.

The idea is to use spaghetti and other materials to build the tallest free standing structure you can.  Your free standing structure must include a marshmallow at the very top.  Whoever builds the tallest structure, wins!

So what makes this challenge so different?  What intrigued me about this challenge is that children (especially those in Kindergarten) achieve better results than adults.  How is that possible?

Children tend to build their structure incrementally.  That is, they start with a short structure and place the marshmallow on top.  Then, they increase the height of the structure and place the marshmallow on top again.  They continually test.

Adults tend to build the entire structure and wait for the very end to place the marshmallow on top.  In most cases the structure collapses.

What I took away from this exercise is that you should test early and test often.  You can apply that to so many things.  Not just software development.


TEDxCalgary: (r)Evolutions

So this was my first TED event.  Even though I’m well versed in TED Talks, I didn’t know quite what to expect and from the first minute I was being educated.  Apparently, a TEDx event is an independently organized TED style event.  Furthermore, Calgary supports TEDx by providing TEDxCalgary & TEDxYYC.

Overall, I was very impressed and here’s why:

  • The event was well organized.  It was obvious it took months and months of preparation.
  • The quality of the speakers and their topics were excellent.
  • There were interactive booths during the breaks.
  • It was easy to attend.  Holding the event on a Saturday makes is much easier to attend for many people.
  • It was affordable.  With the downturn in Alberta’s economy it’s easy for many to shy away from these events.  In my opinion, the cost was easily worth it.  Also, most people will never have the opportunity to attend a full blown TED event because of the exorbitant cost.  This type of venue is an excellent replacement.

The most practical talk was actually a clip from TEDxConcordiaUPortland.  It was an entertaining talk on how to use a paper towel.  Have a look:


The talk I could most closely relate to was Perfection vs. Excellence by Kyle Shewfelt (Olympic Legend and revolutions and master).  I think there was something that everyone could relate to.

Do I plan on attending future TEDx events?  Absolutely.


3 things we can learn from TED Talks

  • It’s difficult to hold people’s attention for more than 18 minutes

That’s why TED Talks are capped at 18 minutes.  In fact, it seems this type of approach is quietly appearing in various conferences where people are saying more by saying less.  Pecha Kucha talks last for a total of 400 seconds.  And Open Space forums can last as long as the attendee wants.

  • It’s ok to suggest ideas that are completely out of the box

TED provides a forum where it’s ok to question everything we’ve ever believed.  These types of talks inspire change and sometimes convince us to change our mindset.

  • Anybody can do it

Many celebrities have given TED talks including Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, Tony Robbins, etc.  Not to mention various Ph.D.s and business leaders.  However, many talks have been given by people that just have something to share.  Maysoon Zayid suffers from cerebral palsy and her TED talk has already commanded over 6 million views.

For me, the most interesting TED talk I came across was Pamela Meyer : How to spot a liar

Here’s the link: