The Single Most Important aspect of High Performing Teams

“How do you create a happy environment?”
“Simple. I removed all the unhappy people.”

I can’t remember who said this, but it rings true to me.

To get the hot air balloon higher, it is simpler to remove the lead weights than to pump more hot air into the balloon canopy.

Single most important aspect: Remove those that suck

* This post was originally my response to this question on quora.

There is a lot of buzz around Pinterest these days, but the social network that most keeps me entertained while learning is Quora.  It connects people around interests.  I have got some great answers to questions regarding research, articles I am writing, places to visit…

Some of my answers on quora:


Interview: Manel Baucells, Author of "Engineering Happiness"

Manel Baucells was the favourite Professor amongst students when I did my MBA at IESE Business School.  He taught Decision Analysis.  There are certain types of situation under which humans will take poor (rational) decisions.  We study this subject so that we can reduce the likelihood that we will take similar poor decisions under similar situations.  Examples of situations that cause poor decisions are sunk costs, loss aversion, prediction of low frequency events.

Manel’s new book “Engineering Happiness: A New Approach for Building a Joyful Lifehas just arrived to my Kindle.  I asked him to answer a few questions about the book, and about how a Microsoft Excel geek could end up at the fluffy end of psychology…  writing about happiness 😉

Interview with Manel Baucells

Engineering Happiness,
by Manel Baucells

What most surprised you in learning about happiness?
How much happiness depends on our attitudes, rather than on external circumstances.

What led you to write the book?
As professors, our audience are the students that attend our lectures and the colleagues that read our academic papers. There is a moment in our careers that we want to expand our audience, and publish a book for a broad audience. It is critical to choose a time that is not too early in one’s career, and ideas are not yet mature; or too late. Rakesh and I felt that this is a good time in our careers to write a book of this characteristics.

Who will benefit from reading the book?
Any one interested in being happier, or readers of popular science books. I feel that the audience for non-fiction, research based books is expanding. This increase is due, no doubt, to the growing quality and relevance of the research done in the social sciences.

What are the 3 most damaging things people do that reduce happiness?
The fundamental starting point of the book is that happiness equals reality minus expectations. There are three key things one needs to understand:

  • The first is that expectations shift. The moment one increases his or her living standards, one get adapted quite soon, and going back down is very painful. 
  • The second is that our happiness is greatly influenced by how we compare with our peers, our comparison group. 
  • The third is that happiness can be engineered by using a “less to more” approach. Always start low, and then increase. 

What 3 things have you changed in your own life since writing the book?
Managing expectations better, create less to more (crescendo) patterns, and engage in activities that accumulate.

The book is accessible for anyone interested in the latest science on the field of human happiness: Engineering Happiness: A New Approach for Building a Joyful Life.

Have you read the book?  Did you have Manel as a professor?  What are your thoughts about the concept of mathematically measuring and improving “happiness”?

3 types of Dangerous People

If you want to improve quality of life, stay away from people that reduce your joy.

Spider Reflections
photo: Avital Pinnick

Micheal Maddock writes about 3 types of people to fire immediately.  This applies beyond the world of entrepreneurs and work teams.  It applies in all of life.

The 3 types of Dangerous People

  1. Victims – they want the problems.
  2. Critics – they won’t and they don’t want you to either.
  3. Know-it-Alls – they refuse to learn.

Question:  In the case that it is impossible to get away from someone of type 1, 2 or 3 do you have any ideas for antidotes?

Are you a Dog or a Wolf?

There are 2 types of life.  The Dog or the Wolf.

Are you a Dog or are you a Wolf?
Wolf Park
Dogs are hierarchical social-status animals.  They hunt in packs.  They fight for power within their pack.  Their success or failure is entirely defined by their position within the hierarchy of the pack.  The higher up the social order, the longer they live, the more they eat…  and the more offspring they procreate.

Wolves are territorial animals.  They find their own territory.  They each are leader in their own territory.  They can all be successes in their lives.

Dog or Wolf.  Which are you?

The choice:  Wolf = Territory (create your own value system) or Dog = Hierarchy (measure against other’s value systems).

Happiness is just over that Green Hill

I’ve always loved this song (Learn to be Still) from The Eagles.  It has become my favourite over the last week on the beach and by the pool. I had never paid too much attention to the words until today…

Learn To Be Still

It’s just another day in paradise
As you stumble to your bed
You’d give anything to silence
Those voices ringing in your head
You thought you could find happiness
Just over that green hill
You thought you would be satisfied
But you never will-
Learn to be still

We are like sheep without a shepherd
We don’t know how to be alone
So we wander ’round this desert
And wind up following the wrong gods home
But the flock cries out for another
And they keep answering that bell
And one more starry-eyed messiah
Meets a violent farewell-
Learn to be still
Learn to be still

Now the flowers in your garden
They don’t smell so sweet
Maybe you’ve forgotten
The heaven lying at your feet

There are so many contradictions
In all these messages we send
(We keep asking) How do I get out of here?
Where do I fit in?
Though the world is torn and shaken
Even if your heart is breakin’
It’s waiting for you to awaken
And someday you will-
Learn to be still
Learn to be still

You just keep on runnin’
Keep on runnin’

What is your favourite song this summer?

Some silly Inane things that make me happy


  • Peeling a whole orange in one go (skin remains in one single piece); just did that now 😉
  • Buying something in a shop and it costs exactly the coins I have in my pocket and I rid my pocket of little 2c, 5c, 10c coins
  • The smell of petrol when I fill my car; the smell of pine trees in the late afternoon on a hot sunny day
  • The string reverb sound that comes at exactly 1:02 on the song Lover’s Lane by Orjan Nilsen (on spotify)
Missing anything?

On perspective. It may be good, it may be bad…

A peasant farmer lives on the outskirts of a village with his family.

Horse HeadHe comes into the village one day and is visibly disturbed. He speaks to the wise man of the village: “My horse has run away with the wild horses. I have lost my horse. This is terrible.”

The wise man says “It may be good, it may be bad.”

The next day the peasant farmer returns to the center of the village. This time he looks happy. He speaks again “My horse has returned and has brought two extra wild horses back with him. This is wonderful.”

The wise man says “It may be good, it may be bad.”

The next day the peasant farmer returns. He is clearly shaken. “My son was riding one of the wild horses. He has fallen and has broken his leg. This is awful.”

The wise man says “It may be good, it may be bad.”

The next day the peasant farmer is back. He is calm. “The army came looking for recruits for the war. They came to my house. They wanted my son. They saw that his leg was broken and they were not able to take him away to war. I am so lucky.”

The wise man says “It may be good, it may be bad.”