Live Group Testing of the Happiness Tool in Boston

In spite of rain, four people showed up for the testing last Wednesday: two men and two women. I only knew one person out of four, the rest were from I’m Happy Project Meet-up group.

We met in the courtyard of the Boston Public Library, which has a beautiful fountain. I briefly gave an overview of the project. It is interesting that one of the attendees was a Sociology professor who is going to write a book about happiness. After I distributed the forms to the attendees and explained the rules, we moved to one of the rooms in the library and the participants took seats at different tables. The point was to simulate isolated environment and be anonymous as if we were home completing forms online, not next to other humans present.  

After participants completed the forms anonymously they dropped them in the bag and I rated the forms via the tool I have in Excel and wrote their ratios of happiness on the forms. While I was rating, participants formulated two questions about their obstacles to happiness and wrote them down (also anonymously) on the second form. We rotated the question forms between 4 tables, and everyone had a chance to answer other people’s questions and got answers to their own questions. They also recorded their high and low points… of the day (or of their life as of today). The whole exercise took about one hour.

At the end we briefly discussed the session. Participants felt that their ratios were about right. And it turned out that everyone enjoyed writing answers for others even more than receiving answers to their own questions… And one person mentioned “I felt closer to you than before, even though we are strangers… As if we are close friends, we shared very important things with each others.”

There will be two more live sessions in San Fran and LA over next two weeks, I will also summarize feedback from individual testers in other posts. Thank you to all testers!



People Ask for Life Purpose

I just found this post Living Your Life Purpose from Steve Pavlina from June 2 and want to share it with you:

“You may recall that a few months ago I did a survey to see what kinds of products people would be interested in seeing me create. Among other insights this provided, it helped me see what the most requested topics are. Where do people need the most help?

One of the top requests in that survey was for a product on the topic of Life Purpose. In reading through the many hundreds of comments, it became clear that a lot of people still feel they’re drifting, and they need more help bringing a sense of purpose to their lives, so they can feel centered and at peace with themselves — and so they can feel they’re on a path to making a meaningful contribution instead of being stuck in unfulfilling situations.

Another thing that stood out was that people want more than how-to information. They need help motivating themselves to go through the process. So even though I’ve written a good deal about life purpose in the past, and many people have found it extremely helpful, it isn’t enough to get everyone to the place they’d like to be — the place of having a deep-rooted connection to one’s life purpose.

I started working on a product along those lines because it seemed like a good place to start. Many other aspects of self-development stem from clarifying your life purpose. I completed the product outline, which I expected would become a 6-10 hour audio program. But when I reviewed the outline, something didn’t feel quite right about it to me. It didn’t feel like this was really “my product.” I felt like I was using a semi-forced process that wasn’t my normal process for creating inspired content.

I acknowledged to myself that I was out of flow, so I put the product on hold for a while, worked on other projects, and took a weeklong road trip through California, intending to come back to the project a little later with a fresh perspective. I pondered whether I should take the product in a different direction. I didn’t want to scrap it because I know there’s a need for it, but I’ve learned over the years that it’s important to trust my intuition when it comes to such matters.

During this time I received an email from Dr. Brad Swift about a new product he was releasing on the subject of… you guessed it… life purpose. I was already familiar with Brad’s work because I reviewed his book Life on Purpose: Six Passages to an Inspired Life in 2007, and we’ve kept in touch over the years. Life on Purpose is simply the best book on life purpose I’ve ever read, and it deserves the rare honor of maintaining a solid 5-star average rating on

There is also a series of 3 short videos that will introduce you to his Life on Purpose process. These videos are free to watch and don’t require signing up for anything. Watch the videos here: A Life That Matters

Once you’ve watched the first video, follow the link at the end of the text below the video to view the next video in the series. There are 3 videos in total, and each one is a little over 10 minutes long.

These videos will give you a good overview of the more detailed process you’ll experience in the Life on Purpose Virtual Video Coach program that helps you discover your life purpose and begin living in alignment with it.

If you feel you’ve been drifting lately and would like to have more meaning, focus, and centeredness in your life — or if you’ve been thinking about a career change to do work that’s more aligned with who you truly are — these videos are a good place to begin.”

Three Tips

I wrote this post for another blog 6 months ago, but I thought of it after reading this, a collection of good tips and ideas from bloggers. Below are three tips that helped me in 2010.

1. Create several social identities. Become a member of several groups, whether it is a book club, church meeting, basketball team at work, make your own beer crew, etc. This year I spent many months unemployed and trying to be very frugal while I was looking for a job.  I couldn’t go out much or go on vacation, etc. but I attended my Tuesday Writer’s Meet-up gatherings, met with my book club friends and volunteered with OLPC.  My social groups got me going and gave me a sense of purpose and fulfillment especially during hard times.

Make friends with people from different walks of life, one day you’ll especially thank yourself for that, as those friendships will give you new perspective, make you wiser and more open-minded. This will also help you network and share hobbies with others.

2. Don’t be afraid to look or ask for help. At some points of our lives we all need either direct help or mentoring.  Sometimes we are debating between several options and can’t make up our mind. And then one small piece of advice from a total stranger could work as a moderator or catalyst for resolving our pending questions. When depressed, don’t assume you are alone and your condition will stay like that forever, everything passes especially bad things. “All inevitable things are temporary, only lessons from inevitable are eternal” Paolo Coelho. For any problem you have, there is someone who has the answer for you as there have been at least 12 billion people on Earth past and present (plus aliens) and someone for sure at least has thought about what you are pondering.

Ask for help, Google it, put it out there! And the answer will come to you, just believe in the abundance of the Universe, because for some magic reason there are people out there who have right answers. And if you are the one who has the solution, post it on your blog, some forum, etc… Your opinion is valuable for someone else on this planet.

3. Make new priorities this year. Find room for what you really want to do. Whether it is a long-desired hobby, more time spent with your friends and family or a simple vacation. My friend complained that he worked too much and had no time to rest, then I said “make it your priority, and then you will find time”.  When he focused on it, he managed to take time off work; months later I received beautiful pictures he sent from his big trip to Europe. He looked very happy and healthy. The same happened to me. A year ago I realized that I had other priorities in life besides corporate work, and I left my job and went to volunteer in Asia. I felt like I found something I lost many years ago – the  meaning and lightness of life. 

Make priorities this year for important things in you life that should not wait.

Inspired by Mark McCurdy and his Three awesome tips to start the New Year

The Ups and Downs of Life

Recently I saw a Russian movie based on the book Eternal Call by Anatoliy Ivanov. My mother asked me if I knew biography of the actor Peter Velyaminov in that movie. I didn’t, so found his life story on Russian Wikipedia  and to say the least, I was shocked, but couldn’t help admire his attitude to life and happiness.

Peter Velyaminov was born on December 7, 1926, in Moscow, the son of a hereditary military from an ancient noble family. Among his ancestors listed as gentry many famous personalities. Most titled of them was the founder of the beginning of XI century who became at the head of three thousand militia to serve for Yaroslav the Wise. He was a nephew of King Norway – King Hakon II. Velyaminovs were among the contenders for the Zemsky Sobor in 1613 to the Russian throne, along with the Romanovs.

Peter’s father – Sergei Velyaminov was hereditary military. Before the revolution he graduated from Pavlovsk Military School in St. Petersburg in 1918, he joined the Red Army, was a member of the High Command of the Red Army. Was arrested in 1930 and held in camps for 17 years, mother lived in exile.

In March 1943, 16-year-old Peter was arrested on charges of “participating in anti-Soviet organization” Revival of Russia “, was sentenced to 10 years hard labor and sent to a transit camp in Kotlas. According to one source, who was under investigation in the Lubyanka prison, Peter was arrested in one case with his father – former tsarist officer.

In the camp Peter received the news of the arrest of his mother. He was so shocked by the news that cut his veins, but they saved him. In 1952 he was released (in the camp spent 9 years and 9 days). After the liberation of the camps Velyaminov three years he worked in Abakan Rafting.

He began playing in amateur theater, where he sang, recited poems and played his first role – Maxim Koshkin of “Spring Love.” From 1952 – Actor Drama Theatre inAbakan, 1955 – Tyumen Oblast Drama Theatre. He has also worked in theaters Dzerzhinsk, Novocherkassk, Cheboksary, Ivanovo, Perm and Sverdlovsk. It is in Sverdlovsk Theater Peter saw Valery Uskov and Vladimir Krasnopolsky and was invited to appear in multi-part film “Shadows at Noon”  in the role of the collective farmer Zahar Bolshakov.

In 1972, after the success of the film “Shadows at Noon”, Peter Velyaminov became famous nationwide and  moved to Moscow, where he joined the troupe of the Contemporary Theater. In the Contemporary Velyaminov played in the first directorial performance Galina Volchek “Climbing Mount Fuji”, and many other productions. In 1974 he joined the studio theater.

Despite the national recognition through the movie, the authorities did not forget about his past. So, in 1979, he was not allowed into France with the delegation, which carried the film “Shadows at Noon”. In 1983, actor was rehabilitated. In 1990, he became a full member of the Russian Nobility Assembly, receiving a diploma number 20. In 1994-1997 he was Vice-marshal of the St. Petersburg Assembly of the Noble, and in May 1995 led a delegation of St. Petersburg of the Noble Assembly of the IV All-Russian Congress of the nobility.

His own words:

“I am a happy man, because a difficult situation did not break me. Up to the 50s in the camps, there was no division on the criminals, deserters and political. But it so happened that next to me was always someone who helped me. When I got in the Urals for the construction of Hydrolyzed plant in juveniles, criminals, gang, I have finally exhausted – weighed 47 kilograms (103 lbs). With Dystrophy I was placed in the infirmary. Hospital boss, too, was a Muscovite, and as it turned out, her daughter was studying with me at the same school. Thanks to this woman I did and survived. I have worked on Rafting, foreman of carpenters, setter. Norm setter Karmazin, who “held” in the camp the entire mechanical plant, told me: “Well, then you go to this jazz? Songs to sing “Goodbye, Mama, Do not Cry”? Engaged in this profession, and thou shalt be fed and drunk. “But I went to the orchestra, which accompanied the prisoners to work, to play drums. Music education there – four years of musical school in violin.”

Since 1995 Velyaminov lived and worked in St. Petersburg, he died at the age of 82 a happy man.

Independent and Group Testers are in Action

The first version of the tool was sent to 20+ testers in 3 countries (the US, Canada and Singapore).

In the next 3 weeks 3 live testing sessions  will be held in 3 different cities, where anyone can try the tool and participate in the simulation of the happiness aggregator:

1. June 22, Wednesday, Boston, MA at Boston Public Library

2. June 30, Thursday, San Francisco, CA at the Epicenter Cafe

3. July 6, Wednesday, Los Angeles, CA at the Urth Cafe in Santa Monica

And finally, check out this beautiful film HOME – The Adventure with Yann Arthus-Bertrand about us and our planet!

Testing the Happiness Calculator

Before all categories in the tool were finalized, I was very curious about my own ratio of happiness and categories in the formula. I predicted about 5 categories in mine, but as I went through the first exercise, that was not the case.

On Day 1 my happiness ratio was 85%, which was higher than I expected. I thought that one category that I’m not satisfied with would outweigh others, but it didn’t because I value several other categories just as high in priority. Even though sometimes I grouch about something, it means that I keep forgetting how blessed I’m with other things in life and I can’t take them for granted.  

I took a moment and imagined some scenarios… I would not be as happy if that one category was high on my satisfaction scale, but low on priority, or if some other categories were low in satisfaction, because I know they are my high priorities, like friends, health, environment, etc. My results varied slightly daily, and I’m sure that they would vary more if I measured my happiness monthly! At the end of the week I got really curious about my feelings on the days of measurements, and I reconstructed my activities that week.

On Day 1, my ratio was 85% and I worked at home all day and didn’t even have time to go out.

On Day 2 , though, I interacted with a lot of people: went rollerblading with a group of friends and had a nice dinner, laughed a lot, but my happiness ratio went down to 82%, and I think mainly because there were moments  of melancholy that day when I thought about that one damn category.

On Day 3, I went to work and after work I wrote a blog post and worked more on promoting the meet-up event in Boston on June 22, contacting some people and … my happiness ratio was at 87% that day. I didn’t work out, I didn’t have good food, I didn’t’ spend time with friends or family,  I just worked on my Project after work and that gave me my boost of happiness.

On Day 4, I played with the tool by building constraints and expanding limits. I decided to only include 5 categories in my formula, so I picked 5 the most important ones.  My happiness ratio plummeted to 69%. I changed importance scale from 0-4 to 0-5, so I had to answer all questions again.

There were some shocking results. (When I answer questions , I hide previous answers, so that I don’t get distracted by my old answers). My happiness changed in just 5 minutes by +1%! Just in minutes my importance of hobbies to my happiness went  down by 66%! It is funny, that I changed my mind about some categories so quickly and I didn’t remember how I rated them only minutes ago.

Main lesson learned: try to be as honest as possible when answering questions, because your mind will play games with you, so listen to your heart.

Lastly, I was curious to create graphs for each category, and I did it. On Day 6 I wanted to know why I felt one way or another and wished I wrote down my thoughts on low points and highlights of categories…

Three Questions of Life

One day it occurred to a certain emperor that if he only knew the answers to three questions, he would never stray in any matter. What is the best time to do each thing? Who are the most important people to work with? What is the most important thing to do at all times? The emperor issued a decree throughout his kingdom announcing that whoever could answer the questions would receive a great reward. Many who read the decree made their way to the palace at once, each person with a different answer. In reply to the first question, one person advised that the emperor make up a thorough time schedule, consecrating every hour, day, month, and year for certain tasks and then follow the schedule to the letter. Only then could he hope to do every task at the right time. Another person replied that it was impossible to plan in advance and that the emperor should put all vain amusements aside and remain attentive to everything in order to know what to do at what time. Someone else insisted that, by himself, the emperor could never hope to have all the foresight and competence necessary to decide when to do each and every task and what he really needed was to set up a Council of the Wise and then to act according to their advice. Someone else said that certain matters required immediate decision and could not wait for consultation, but if he wanted to know in advance what was going to happen he should consult magicians and soothsayers. The responses to the second question also lacked accord. One person said that the emperor needed to place all his trust in administrators, another urged reliance on priests and monks, while others recommended physicians. Still others put their faith in warriors. The third question drew a similar variety of answers. Some said science was the most important pursuit. Others insisted on religion. Yet others claimed the most important thing was military skill.

The emperor was not pleased with any of the answers, and no reward was given. After several nights of reflection, the emperor resolved to visit a hermit who lived up on the mountain and was said to be an enlightened man. The emperor wished to find the hermit to ask him the three questions, though he knew the hermit never left the mountains and was known to receive only the poor, refusing to have anything to do with persons of wealth or power. So the emperor disguised himself as a simple peasant and ordered his attendants to wait for him at the foot of the mountain while he climbed the slope alone to seek the hermit. Reaching the holy man’s dwelling place, the emperor found the hermit digging a garden in front of his hut. When the hermit saw the stranger, he nodded his head in greeting and continued to dig. The labor was obviously hard on him. He was an old man, and each time he thrust his spade into the ground to turn the earth, he heaved heavily. The emperor approached him and said, “I have come here to ask your help with three questions: When is the best time to do each thing? Who are the most important people to work with? What is the most important thing to do at all times?” The hermit listened attentively but only patted the emperor on the shoulder and continued digging. The emperor said, “You must be tired. Here, let me give you a hand with that.” The hermit thanked him, handed the emperor the spade, and then sat down on the ground to rest. After he had dug two rows, the emperor stopped and turned to the hermit and repeated his three questions. The hermit still did not answer, but instead stood up and pointed to the spade and said, “Why don’t you rest now? I can take over again.” But the emperor continued to dig. One hour passed, then two. Finally the sun began to set behind the mountain. The emperor put down the spade and said to the hermit, “I came here to ask if you could answer my three questions. But if you can’t give me any answer, please let me know so that I can get on may way home.” The hermit lifted his head and asked the emperor, “Do you hear someone running over there?” The emperor turned his head. They both saw a man with a long white beard emerge from the woods. He ran wildly, pressing his hands against a bloody wound in his stomach. The man ran toward the emperor before falling unconscious to the ground, where he lay groaning. Opening the man’s clothing, the emperor and hermit saw that the man had received a deep gash. The emperor cleaned the wound thoroughly and then used his own shirt to bandage it, but the blood completely soaked it within minutes. He rinsed the shirt out and bandaged the wound a second time and continued to do so until the flow of blood had stopped. At last the wounded man regained consciousness and asked for a drink of water. The emperor ran down to the stream and brought back a jug of fresh water. Meanwhile, the sun had disappeared and the night air had begun to turn cold. The hermit gave the emperor a hand in carrying the man into the hut where they laid him down on the hermit’s bed. The man closed his eyes and lay quietly. The emperor was worn out from the long day of climbing the mountain and digging the garden. Leaning against the doorway, he fell asleep. When he rose, the sun had already risen over the mountain. For a moment he forgot where he was and what he had come here for. He looked over to the bed and saw the wounded man also looking around him in confusion. When he saw the emperor, he stared at him intently and then said in a faint whisper, “Please forgive me.” “But what have you done that I should forgive you?” the emperor asked. “You do not know me, your majesty, but I know you. I was your sworn enemy, and I had vowed to take vengeance on you, for during the last war you killed my brother and seized my property. When I learned that you were coming alone to the mountain to meet the hermit, I resolved to surprise you on your way back to kill you. But after waiting a long time there was still no sign of you, and so I left my ambush in order to seek you out. But instead of finding you, I came across your attendants, who recognized me, giving me this wound. Luckily, I escaped and ran here. If I hadn’t met you I would surely be dead by now. I had intended to kill you, but instead you saved my life! I am ashamed and grateful beyond words. If I live, I vow to be your servant for the rest of my life, and I will bid my children and grandchildren to do the same. Please grant me your forgiveness.” The emperor was overjoyed to see that he was so easily reconciled with a former enemy. He not only forgave the man but promised to return all the man’s property and to send his own physician and servants to wait on the man until he was completely healed. After ordering his attendants to take the man home, the emperor returned to see the hermit. Before returning to the palace the emperor wanted to repeat his three questions one last time. He found the hermit sowing seeds in the earth they had dug the day before. The hermit stood up and looked at the emperor. “But your questions have already been answered.” “How’s that?” the emperor asked, puzzled. “Yesterday, if you had not taken pity on my age and given me a hand with digging these beds, you would have been attacked by that man on your way home. Then you would have deeply regretted not staying with me. Therefore the most important time was the time you were digging in the beds, the most important person was myself, and the most important pursuit was to help me. Later, when the wounded man ran up here, the most important time was the time you spent dressing his wound, for if you had not cared for him he would have died and you would have lost the chance to be reconciled with him. Likewise, he was the most important person, and the most important pursuit was taking care of his wound. Remember that there is only one important time and is Now. The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion. The most important person is always the person with whom you are, who is right before you, for who knows if you will have dealings with any other person in the future. The most important pursuit is making that person, the one standing at you side, happy, for that alone is the pursuit of life.” Leo Tolstoy

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