Happy Minded

One thing I’ve noticed about people over many years, is that the ones who seem happiest, seem happiest no matter what happens to them, good or bad. I’ve seen severe injury and devastating failure happen to them, and terrible tragedy of many kinds. They persistently focus on the good, and on others instead of themselves. They also remain humble and energetic in the face of success. These people handle both failure and success well. They respond to good luck and misfortune equally with positive action to make the most of each, learn the most from each, and be grateful for what they have. These are not people who fake a smile to appear like everything’s great. When they smile at you, you know it’s genuine.

Other people I’ve known over many years, who are easily frustrated, complain about life no matter what happens to them, good or bad. If nothing bad happens, they invent excuses to snap at others and seek sympathy at the same time. A little trouble generates a lot of bitterness. A little success breeds a lot of gloating and laziness. They handle both failure and success poorly. They don’t benefit from experience. When these people put on a smile, it is usually transparently forced from external expectation.

These observations led me to thinking about the relationship between happiness and an active mind. I think there is a strong correlation. Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield, is adamant about happiness from activity: “Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action” (Puck, Volumes 15-16). I think that goes for both mental and physical action. Leave it to Aristotle to put it most simply: “Happiness is a state of activity.”

Active minds process incoming events and data more effectively. That in itself should lead to healthier brain-chemical reactions. It is so simple, it becomes a matter of statistical predictability: “if I know everything about your external world, I can only predict 10 percent of your long-term happiness. 90 percent of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes the world” (Shawn Achor. “The Happy Secret to Better Work” Ted Talk. February, 2012).

Some old sages, Martha Washington for example, say it’s pure disposition: “for I have also learnt, from experience, that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances. We carry the seeds of the one or the other about with us, in our minds, wheresoever we go” (Letter to Mercy Warren 1789).

Self-help shelves are loaded with books to make you happy. You can read the rest of your life on how to be happy and die with 10,000 books yet to read. But if it’s all a matter of inherited brain-configuration, it begs the question: Is the “happiness” segment of the self-help industry wrong? If it’s inherited, and it’s not working well, can you fix it? Marcus Aurelius thought it was quite an easy proposition: “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”

In my opinion you can change habits of thought and behavior if you want to. It may be harder if you feel you were born with difficulty experiencing satisfaction or fulfillment in any circumstances. If your default responses are either gloating or lashing out, you have a harder road to travel to find anything rewarding in this life. That’s a wall, and you have to find a way to break through it. I believe it is a wall between a more passive mind versus a more active mind. In this case, I certainly advocate taking the hard road to improve your chances of happiness. The root of the remedy may be in developing a more active-minded approach to everything.

In closing, I like FDR’s take on the subject:

Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort. - Franklin D. Roosevelt

Link: Click here for my other “Active Minded” posts on the differences between passive and active.

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The Honored Guest

With the 4th of July rolling around, here is my tribute to one of our lesser-known Founding Fathers: Thomas Paine. Like a good father, he suggested names for the new baby he was creating. In Common Sense, he used phrases like “United Colonies,” “American states,” and “Free and Independent States of America.” Finally, of course, everyone agreed on “The United States of America.” Continue reading

The Secret Lives of Codebreakers

Book Review
Title: The Secret Lives of Codebreakers
Author: Sinclair McKay
Published: Penguin Group 2010

Recently I saw the 2014 film The Imitation Game about British Intelligence’s codebreaking of German communications during World War II. The movie was interesting enough that I went straight to Barnes & Noble and bought a book to learn more. I just finished reading The Secret Lives of Codebreakers: The Men and Women Who Cracked the Enigma Code at Bletchley Park, which was published a few years before the film came out. Continue reading

The Education of Henry Adams

Book Review
Title: The Education of Henry Adams
Author: Henry Adams
Published: Modern Library 1931. Originally published 1918. Privately circulated 1907

Last December I wrote about Adams’ earlier work, Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, which I recommended for its rich blend of philosophy, legend, architecture, personal observations, and mediæval history. The Education of Henry Adams is also rich in personal observations and history. Continue reading

The Ides of March

March 15 is remembered as the Ides of March because of the assassination of Roman ruler Julius Caesar.

In B.C. 49 a power struggle divided the Roman Senate. Two influential leaders controlled military forces: Julius Caesar and a man by the name of Pompey. A civil war seemed inevitable. Continue reading

Resolutions and Exclusions

As part of the New Year tradition, I am posting my Resolution. I am also posting my Exclusions—some popular resolutions that I am not pursuing.

Resolution: My New Year’s Resolution is basically the same every year, and has two parts:

  1. Do more: “Do More” is my ongoing mode of travel through life because challenges are exciting and the more I accomplish the better I like it. Continue reading

Mont Saint Michel and Chartres

Book Review
Title: Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres
Author: Henry Adams
Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (June 3, 1986). Originally published 1904.

Henry Adams toured French mediæval gothic architecture, and apparently took a lot of notes, focusing on the Grande Cathedrals of Mont-Saint-Michel (built in the 1100s) and Chartres (built in the late 1100s to 1200s). The notes became the book. If that were the extent of the book, however, it could be summed with a few nice photos and captions. But there’s also 360 pages of mystery and fascination surrounding the architecture. Continue reading

Marketing Deeper

Conventional views of marketing is that it’s shallow, purely promotional, and not deeply informative like other forms of information, such as research articles and manuals. There’s been a large gap between deeper learning versus glossy brochures. Today, good marketing is bridging that gap. Continue reading

Content Marketing

When scientists publish articles in reputable journals, it enhances their reputation. When the scientist works for a company in the industry, it enhances the company’s reputation. That kind of knowledge leadership builds trust and indirectly generates revenue. No amount of marketing can create that kind of trust and customer loyalty, until now. That is precisely the kernel of truth upon which content marketing is built. Continue reading

The Doublecheckers

Exhausted after fifteen hours of preparing a CD product that had to ship that day, one last little error was found, and fixed. “It’s good to go!” said the person who fixed it. It was 11 p.m. on a Friday night, we had been working on this since 8 a.m., pushing to meet the deadline. There was a sigh of relief by everyone, except for me and my lead Quality Assurance Analyst. We looked at each other and nodded in agreement—“No, not good to go.” Continue reading

My 4th-of-July Thank You

Like every year around the 4th of July I hear a lot about the Fathers of America, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, John Adams. They were men of character, courage, and intelligence. We do well to learn from their example. We should be grateful year round for those who set such a high bar risking everything for others, doing what’s right without faltering in fear of painful consequences Continue reading

Archaeology of SDLC

There are some great names among the founders of the still-nascent field, industry, and profession of Software Testing & Quality Assurance: Dave Gelperin, Boris Beizer, Glenford Myers, Rick Craig, and Lee Copeland, to name a few. A name not often included in that list is Michel Foucault. That may be because Foucault was a social theorist and philosopher rather than a software quality practitioner. But I was listening to a Foucault interview on knowledge and culture from 1971, and as with all things interesting, I started thinking how it might relate to QA. Continue reading

Shakespeare 450

William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday is today, born 23 April 1564. Or at least it is traditionally celebrated on 4/23. He was baptized 4/26 so his birth date would be a few days earlier. Being born 450 years ago today adds a certain symmetry—he also died on 4/23, in 1616, 398 years ago today.

Just about a tenth of all the words in Shakespeare’s works are words that he invented Continue reading

“Software Test Essentials” in Tea-Time with Testers

My article: “Software Test Essentials” is published in Tea-Time with Testers magazine, March/April 2014 issue.

Tea-Time with Testers is the largest-circulated software testing monthly in the world, and one of the best international software testing publications available for today’s test and QA professional. Link to the magazine homepage.

Big Data and the New CMO

Marketers and especially CMOs transition into increasingly technical roles as marketing becomes an increasingly metrics-driven activity. Big data is largely to blame. Metrics deliver actionable information on human community, phone apps behavior, ecommerce behavior, social networking, browsing patterns, as well as metrics on real-world trends and transactions Continue reading

Persian Carpets


Book Review
Title: The Root of the Wild Madder
Author: Brian Murphy
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, New York, 2005

There are plenty of dry histories of Persian carpet making, and sterile picture books of Persian carpets, but too often they fail to do justice to their topic. That’s not a surprising problem for anyone trying to unravel an ancient art form that has survived millennia. Continue reading