I’m Guy Kawasaki, and this is Remarkable People. We are on a mission to make you remarkable. Today’s remarkable guest is Cassie Holmes. She is an award-winning professor at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. Cassie has a Ph.D. from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and a B.A. from Columbia University. Her work has been published in NPR, The Economist, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and The Washington Post. Cassie has a new book, Happier Hour: How to Beat Distraction, Expand Your Time, and Focus on What Matters Most, based on her wildly popular MBA course, “Applying the Science of Happiness to Life Design.” All this episode will do is help you… • Change your ability to build close relationships • Use money to buy time and increase happiness • Thrive after retirement • Put all the golf balls into your life This episode is for you if you want to increase your happiness by changing how you perceive and invest your time!
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Okay ladies and gentlemen, this is a first. I'm going to record an introduction. I know it's recording, but I really cannot tell you the quality because I just can't hear the damn thing.
I'm Guy Kawasaki, and this is Remarkable People. I hope you know that we are on a mission to make you remarkable.
Today's Remarkable guest is Cassie Holmes. She is an award-winning professor at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, where I got my MBA, and a faculty affiliate with the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute.
Cassie has a PhD from Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, and a BA from Columbia University. Her work has been published in news outlets and academic journals, such as NPR, The Economist, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic and Washington Post.
Cassie has a new great book, Happier Hour: How to Beat Distraction, Expand Your Time, and Focus on What Matters Most.
It is based on her wildly popular MBA course, applying the science of happiness to life design.
This short episode will help you change your ability to build close relationships, use money to buy time and increase happiness, thrive after retirement, offset the negative effects of hedonic adaptation and put all the golf balls in your life.
If you are interested in increasing your happiness by changing how you perceive and invest your time, this episode is for you.
I'm Guy Kawasaki. This is Remarkable People.
And now here's the remarkable Cassie Holmes.
In the middle of your book, you bring up this topic called, The Relationship Closeness Induction Task.
Yes, yes. And I love that you ask about it and it's so interesting because in the entire book, Happier Hour, this is something that literally takes fifteen minutes and not even a quarter of an hour, but it has such a strong effect.
It's really important, and if you ask someone who does study happiness and how we should be spending our time, the primary answer is through social connection, but it's not just spending time with people because that doesn't necessarily make you closer.
It is the extent to which you're really connecting and oftentimes that happens through conversation.
And The Relationship Closeness Induction Task is a series of questions and it was developed by researchers, validated by researchers, where it's a fifteen-minute exercise.
At UCLA, among our MBAs, I teach a course on happiness called, Applying The Science of Happiness to Life Design.
And I have them do in the class when I'm talking about the value of social connection, I'm like, “Okay, here guys, this is going to be an activity that you do.”
I pair them up. Oftentimes they actually know the other person, but by the end of it, they know them even better and view them as their friend.
And what the task does is, it gives a set of questions. The first set of questions are things like, what's your name? Why did you choose to come to Anderson? But it's the small talk that often happens at a cocktail party as one is introducing themselves.
I give them five minutes to go through that set of questions. And for each question, one person asks it, the other person answers and then the other person asks it and you answer.
Then they move on and have eight minutes for the next set of questions, which are a little bit more disclosive, a little bit more personal.
What are your favorite hobbies? How do you like to spend your time? Things that are getting a little bit more about your personal experience.
And then you go to the last set of questions. And these are much deeper and richer.
What is your greatest fear? What is something that you're most proud of? What's one of your happiest childhood memories?
And as you can see with these questions getting more and more personal and disclosive, what that's doing is it's guiding youth through exercise that we tend to do, hopefully naturally as we engage with people and what friendship is, it's about knowing someone and being known by someone and by having this escalating reciprocal self-disclosure, that is what makes people feel closer and more connected.
Like I said, this is a task that's been empirically developed and validated. When people do it, they feel significantly closer to the other person and are more likely to want to spend time with that person in the future. I do it to encourage my students to realize how you can authentically and genuinely connect with an individual if you just ask the right questions and are open enough to share about yourself.
What happened that time that you had an odd number of students and you had to be the other person?
In one case, there was an odd number. I was like okay, I will happily jump in. I did this task with this student, Gabby, whom I knew from having taught her for five weeks to that point, and she is an outspoken student, which I very much appreciate. I'd heard her thoughts and knew her from class.
But in this conversation, I learned much more than just that initial first impression of someone being outspoken and gregarious. I realized, and I learned that actually growing up, she had a lot of social anxiety and she overcame it through, in her case going to sleepaway camp.
And she still is very connected to that camp. And she came to get her MBA because she wanted to go into media feeling like seeing how important it was to her journey of overcoming her insecurities throughout her adolescence.
And hopefully through media, helping people in their emotional journeys, through storytelling and connecting with a broader audience. And in just that fifteen minutes she went from a student to a friend.
I valued her and cared about her and absolutely grew to believe in her. So then I came home and then my husband who works for a media company, I'm like, I have someone whom I think you should hire her. It didn't happen immediately. She went through a whole interview process and et cetera. But now she is working for my husband's company. And I recommended her as a friend and not as a student.
That bit of knowledge alone justifies reading your book. Is this not a sort of outline on how to form close relationships? And everybody talks about, you got to be open and you got to be transparent and empathetic and all that bullshit.
But you have come up with a list, like, okay, for the first five minutes you do this, the second eight minutes you do this, the second whatever. And at the end of fifteen minutes, you got it.
You'll have a new friend. Which is really powerful.
It is magical. I would like to think that there's a lot more magical insights in the book than just this one.
But I think what you're pointing to is this really gets at the crux of it, of the importance of social connection. There's lots of research that points to the role of social connection.
And there is an incredible longitudinal study, seventy-five years, the Harvard Study of Adult Development, where they tracked a cohort of young men who were in Boston, some who were Harvard students, others who were living in less privileged parts of Boston, and they track them over the course of their lives and would check in and see, what are you doing? How are you doing?
And what they found at the end of these individuals' lives, that the single biggest predictor of life satisfaction was the extent of which they had strong, supportive relationships.
Often that comes in the content and the case of family, but it's also friends who are close enough that feel like family, all pointing to the critical role of friendship.
I can absolutely say for me personally, my friends are a source of wonderfulness, and again, reflecting their research. It's like, when you have friends that makes fine times more fun, and it makes bad times bearable. And if in fifteen minutes you are able to learn someone and feel known by someone to the extent that is a new friend, then that is absolutely, as you said, magical and powerful.
Do you own the intellectual property for this concept?
No, you should look it up. There's a paper, The Relationship Closeness Induction Task.
I was going to say, you should license this to dating apps, because this is a lot better than, what's your sign?
And interestingly there are some wonderful and oftentimes they're sold in gift stores. They come across as cheesy, those boxes of conversation starters.
But what this points to is it's not at all cheesy. If you are able to ask the right questions and are willing to answer those questions, that's where you get a great source of connection.
And in the book when I'm talking about The Relationship Closeness Induction Task, I also talk about my husband and meeting him, and he is a fantastic conversationalist.
We were set up on a blind date for coffee and we met at Stanford. We were graduate students at Stanford. And I can very vividly remember this, in the Rodin Sculpture Garden.
I meet this guy and he starts with a question that comes in the third set of questions, the most disclosive, he, over some San Pellegrinos. He's like, “So what do you think is the source of a happy life?” And I'm like, wait a second. What about those, where are you from? What made you want to go to Stanford questions?
He totally skipped the first and second types of questions and went right to it. I married the guy. I didn't marry him that day, but it is that connection, the ability to be open and to share. But it's really the topic of conversation that lets you know and be known by.
Wait. You're saying that, I just want to clarify this-
If you're going to say you should start with those more intense questions, I don't actually recommend that. I think that there is the gradual-
That's exactly what I'm going to ask. Are you saying this is a positive or negative? Is he an overachiever?
He is an overachiever, and fortunate for him I was willing to dig deep fast, but I've also observed him because he always starts with the tough questions first. It can be off putting for some.
I will warn you that the escalating nature of the task is what makes it more comfortable for everyone to walk through. But for those overachievers in the conversation dimension, in any case you can dig right in at the beginning or at the end rather.
I swear we could stop the recording right now, tell everybody to buy the book and the episode would be justified and buying the book would be justified.
Everything else is cream, but we're not doing either of those two things.
We're going to move on from making friends. All right?
All right. Good one, an important one and I'm happy that we started with that.
Say you're not happy. And so the very tactical question is, how do you start achieving happiness tactically and practically? What new habits do you form? What do you really do?
And there might be several reasons that you're not happy. There is our natural disposition.
So our personalities that we have, one of the actually biggest contributors to our happiness is our inherited temperament.
For those of us who are naturally more cheery, this is good news. For those who got the short end of the genetic stick and are more naturally grumpy, that might be one of the sources of your unhappiness.
And then there's also circumstances that do contribute and we have all lived through the last two years of unfortunate set of circumstances that can contribute to our unhappiness. But there's another piece that is under our control. And so that's where we get to answer your question of, what should we be doing and what should we be thinking about to make us feel happier?
And when I say happier, it's the joy you feel in the day-to-day, the lack of negative emotion in the day-to-day.
But there's also this evaluative component of when you're thinking about your life as a whole, how satisfied do you feel? And so happiness is the coupling of how you're feeling in the moment, as well as this overall evaluation, which tend to go hand in hand.
So what should we be doing to be happier?
Based off of my research, my answer is, how we think about and we spend our time, how we should be spending our time as I've already alluded to is through social connection. Spending time in quality ways with people that we enjoy, our friends, our family. This is based off of time tracking research.
So researchers are tracking, how are people spending their time? How are they feeling while spending their time?
Such that they can identify, what are those activities that on average tend to be associated with most positive emotion? What are those activities that on average tend to be associated with most negative emotion?
The most negative activities on average tend to be commuting or work hours and housework.
Our most positive are social connection through spending time with family and friends, but also physical intimacy.
Exercise is an important one, because not only does it boost your mood while you're doing it, it has these wonderful carryover effects. But by research based off of averages, and this is a podcast about remarkable people.
Each one of us is not average. And also it's an instant, what counts as work activity, they're not all the same. It's group grouping those.
And so in the book, and also in my course, I have my students do this exercise, which I think is profoundly informative. It's tracking your own time. Over the course of two weeks tracking, writing down, what are you doing? And while you're doing it or shortly thereafter, rate on a ten-point scale, how positive it is.
Not just, is it enjoyable and fun in the moment, but overall positivity. Did it give you a sense of satisfaction and a sense of meaning?
And from that you can identify for yourself, what are those activities that tend to be the most positive? What are those activities that tend to be the most negative? As well as how much time are you spending on these various activities?
And so my students will often identify activities that they, quote unquote, “are doing because they think are fun”, like time spent scrolling social media or watching TV. They're like, that's good stuff.
But actually if they look at their ratings, get to mediocre five, whereas the activities that are getting the nines and tens, like meeting up with a friend for dinner or sister for dinner, those are the things that my students who are working full time, pursuing their MBA are so busy.
And they're like, “I don't have time to meet up with my friend for dinner.”
Meanwhile they're spending fifteen hours a week watching TV or on social media.
By looking at the amount of time you're spending, you can figure out where to reallocate towards activities that you for yourself have identified as being most positive.
But God forbid, what if you're the kind of person who's listening to this and says, did this, and I binge watch Tokyo Vice and Occupied and all these things, and I rate them very high?
If you rate them high, that's absolutely great. You are your source of data.
That's why it's helpful to understand, what are those activities that you do absolutely enjoy. Oftentimes people see though that what they think they're like, TV time is my best time, but you might be actually recognizing that it's not as good as some other activities, but you also might recognize that that first hour was really fun, but five hours in that evening and the enjoyment of it starts to wane and that's because of hedonic adaptation that after repeated exposure to positive stimuli or negative stimuli, we get used to it.
Such that the good stuff gets less good over time. We adapt to it.
And so with that insight, you might be like, okay, instead of binging five hours a night, maybe actually since that first hour is really great, why don't you spread out those first hours across your week, so that the time that you're spending is maximized in terms of enjoyment and then those four hours on that night you could actually leave your house and go meet up with that friend for a drink.
What happens if you are binge watching and on social media at the same time?
Interesting. You are multitasking. Yes. A lot of people do that.
You are distracted actually. And while the idea is that you're being efficient in your enjoyment, research shows that when people are distracted from their current activity, they actually enjoy the activity less.
And there's work by Killingsworth and Dan Gilbert, where they were basically seeing how often our minds wandering away from what we're currently doing. And they had a huge data set and they would ping people throughout their day asking, what are you doing? How happy are you? And are you currently focused on what you're doing? Are you thinking about something else?
What they found was pretty nuts. They found that almost half of the time people's minds are wandering. They are not focused on what they're currently doing. And maybe that's fine.
Except when you look at their enjoyment data of how happy they are and what the results indicated, is that people are happiest when they are focusing on what they are currently doing. And so by multitasking, being distracted, particularly distracted from those activities that if you rated your TV time as some of your happiest, what you don't want to do is distract yourself away from that activity, such that it undermines or reduces your enjoyment from that activity.
I think it's even more critical when you're thinking about, again, I'm going to talk about social connection again, because it's so important.
But when it's distracting you away from the time that you're with others of having that conversation, whether you're following The Relationship Closeness Induction Task, or you're just having a conversation otherwise, if your mind is somewhere else, then you are missing out on that opportunity to truly connect with that person and to solidify and cultivate that friendship, that relationship.
And there's even a study that shows that when friends are having a meal together and just having their phone out, even if they're not on their phone, the mere presence of the phone makes them distracted.
And from that distraction, it makes them enjoy that time with their friends less. And that's not even talking about the impact that it has on the other person when you are looking at your phone and on social media.
Okay. But generally speaking, social media is condemned as not fostering relationships, et cetera, et cetera.
But I would make the case that, at least for me personally, I have social interactions and friendships that would not be possible without social media. And so let's take a really good case in point.
In my iMessages I have a family chat and it's the eight of us, the most grouped people we are. And we post pictures of each other and post pictures of ourselves and funny stuff, et cetera, et cetera.
Now, I view that as a positive, extremely positive. Everybody says, “Oh God, you shouldn't be texting, you should be in the moment.”
Am I diluting myself? Of course I would rather be with my son in San Francisco, but that's two hours away.
So isn't texting and social media better than not having any interaction?
You're actually right in with what the data shows and you're right that generally there's a sweeping over of the research that looks at the effects of social media, but it absolutely depends on how people use social media.
The negative effects of being on social media come from passive usage, passive engagement.
When you are watching the lives of others, following without actually interacting with folks whom you already have an existing relationship, when you're using social media and exactly the way that you suggested, where you're actively participating and using it to connect with individuals whom you already have an existing relationship, then you actually see a boost in wellbeing, because it increases your sense of social connection.
When you use social media or technology even, you're talking about texting or social media where you're sharing your experience, your unit of family and friends, and they are sharing with you, that is through boosting your social connection it makes you feel happier.
When you see the negative effects, again, with passive usage, when people are watching others' lives, it actually makes them feel lonelier, because they are watching and not interacting. And they are not a part of what they're seeing in my sense of FOMO, that these people are having this wonderful experience. I'm not there.
It's also a not representative sample of other people's experiences. Because what are people posting? They're posting their happiest moments and this isn't your son posting to you. This is someone posting so all the world to see. It's only their happiest moments.
And so as folks who are passively scrolling through people's happiest moments, that has a negative effect because you're like, oh my gosh, at this moment I happen to be sitting on the couch.
I'm not having a particularly happy moment and it makes you feel really crummy. And through that sense of isolation and loneliness, then you see this drop as well as through social comparison.
So you are using technology in absolutely the best way. And again, because it's social connection.
I feel redeemed.
I would say not only redeemed, I feel relieved. Okay.
One more question about happiness. Do you believe in this theory, and pick the number, but it's surprisingly low number, this theory or findings that after you make $80,000, $100,000, whatever per year, the marginal benefit and joy and happiness you receive of each additional dollar is not that great.
Once you got the baseline covered, money doesn't matter that much in happiness. Do you believe that?
I do believe that. And looking at the research over the years and that being the conclusion that in terms of your day-to-day how you're feeling, more and more money isn't as strongly associated with happiness as people predict.
And some of the reasons for that, actually I just alluded to the role of social comparison, there's always going to be individuals who have more. And oftentimes we assess how we're doing by looking at how are we doing compared to those around us. As you make more money, you are exposed to people with more money.
And so there will always be people who are making more. And so that is not a good thing. Also hedonic adaptation as I alluded to this psychological tendency as well, we get used to things over time.
And so say you get a great raise and you're super excited at the beginning, but then as you're living with that amount of money, day in and day out, you get used to it. You stop noticing it. Or that particular dimension of your life isn't, when I ask you, “how are you feeling. or how satisfied are you? “That’s not the number one contributor.
The reason that I focus on the role of time as our most critical resource and not money, is because how we spend our time in the day-to-day, our attention during that time continues to affect how we are feeling. When I ask you, “How are you feeling right now?”
It is influenced by what you're doing and then is influenced by what you're thinking about.
And that is something that we practice. It is something that we are doing.
So to answer your question that you asked a little bit ago, is there stuff that we can do? And it's absolutely, yes. Connect with the people around you. And it doesn't have to be a lot of time and it actually as you even noted, it doesn't even have to be physically in the same place. You feel very connected to your son when you are texting him.
And yes of course we would love to be at the same table, having a cup of coffee, but having that connection even remotely, it's that sense of connection and belonging, lacking, not having a sense of loneliness that if you're thinking about Maslow's hierarchy of needs, what are those things that we need to really feel fulfilled and satisfied in our lives?
Just beyond those physiological needs, shelter, food, safety, and that is why money at those low levels is actually important to the extent that you are able to meet those needs of paying the rent, getting food on the table, being in a neighborhood and being able to afford a neighborhood where you do feel safe, just beyond that the most basic psychological need is belonging and sense of connection.
And so that's where you get into, beyond what money can buy, it is how we spend our time.
Well, small world. On Friday I'm interviewing Geoff Cohen, who is Mr. Belonging at Stanford.
How about if somebody says, “I tell you what, pick that number, 80,000, 100,000, but if you make more than that, then can't you use money to buy time, in the sense of now I can have someone clean the house, I can have someone cook, I can have someone drive my kids to school. I'm getting back time by making more money.”
How do you say that getting more money isn't a positive?
Well, the reason that it's a positive in that exact way, is that you're using it to buy better time. And to the extent that you do, it is associated with greater satisfaction.
So there's wonderful work about the value of outsourcing.
So as I mentioned, one of the activities that tends to be associated with the least positive emotion is household work, chores. So to the extent that you can identify for you, what are those chores that absolutely feel like a chore?
Because something that's a chore for me, like cooking, might not be a chore for you. You might love the opportunity to create new flavors and to serve a meal to folks and enrich their experience. For me cooking is the worst.
I absolutely spend money to buy out of that time. And the benefit of that really, and the data shows, is it's not just that I'm not doing that chore, it's that then I reallocate that time I would've spent in that way in a more positive way.
So instead of being at the stove and cooking dinner, which I don't enjoy that time, and instead at the dinner table with my family, having those connecting conversations, that's where you get the boost in happiness there.
And these time saving services do cost a little more money. Another way that you can actually invest money for greater happiness is also through better time, and it is through buying experiences and in particular shared experiences that are enriching.
Going out to dinner, going on vacation, we as Americans are terrible at taking vacation and going on vacation compared to our European counterparts. But to the extent that you do invest that money for experiences that allow you to connect, that give you memories, that you can continue to revisit, that is another good investment of money to buy better time and therefore greater happiness.
But solely having additional money that's sitting in the bank making you feel richer, that's not where you're going to get that boost in happiness for satisfaction.
I'm curious, do you use something like Home Fresh where you open up the box and all the ingredients are there and all you have to do is cut it, and fifteen minutes later you have a dinner?
I totally do. Mine happens to be Gobble, which is a similar food service. I love it. And their marketing speaks directly to my soul. On the packaging, it's “Gobble time, this is family time.”
So I'm like, yes, by not having spent the time going grocery shopping and cooking a meal from scratch, I am able to spend that time better with my family. I am a big proponent of these food meal services.
This is like the redemption episode.
I'm glad I'm making you feel good about yourself. That's absolutely my goal for every individual, you should all feel better.
What is the sweet spot between too little and too much time? Because you show a graph in your book that says, too little time is bad and so is too much time.
This was actually a really important research for me personally, because as someone who feels time poor, and that is the acute feeling of having too much to do and not enough time to do it, which has really negative ramifications, it makes us less healthy, less kind, less willing to help others, less confident, a bit able, and believing that we can accomplish what we set out to do.
I was experienced, it made me less happy. And so when I was earlier in my career, a faculty member at Wharton, and I had our son, and he was a baby. And I was like, “Oh my gosh, I don't know if I can keep up with this work, family, being a good friend, all of those things. I was like, maybe I should quit”, so I could have a lot more time.
But then, would I feel happier if I had a lot more time? And so what we did with Hal Hershfield and Marissa Sharif, we analyzed data to look at, what is the relationship between the amount of discretionary time you have in your day-to-day, so hours that you spend on activities you want to do and your life satisfaction?
And we analyze data from the American Time Use Survey, which looked at tens of thousands, working and non-working Americans, we could calculate for a random day, how many hours did they spend on discretionary activities? What we found, the graph that you're referring to is this inverted U shape.
On one side, which was where I was existing, with two little time we do feel less satisfied, which was answering my question that I was grappling with. If I had a lot more free time, if I quit my job, this data suggested that actually I wouldn't feel happier.
In fact I would actually also feel unhappy.
And in digging into that effect, the too much time effect, and it's driven by lacking sense of purpose. We want to feel that within our days that we have something to show for how we spend our hours, we want to have a sense that we've produced something, that we are productive.
With too much time, we don't feel productive, we feel absolutely unproductive, in that makes us feel less satisfied. But within, and at least in this data set, between two and five hours of discretionary time within a day, the relationship was largely flat. That would be the sweet spot.
So less than again, within this data set, less than about two hours too little time. More than about five hours is too much time. But between two and five hours, that's actually a pretty wide range.
And then it suggests that it's not how much time you have, it's how you spend that time. Getting back to our earlier discussion of the activities we should be spending our time on as well as our mindset during those activities of being engaged, not being distracted, so that we make the most of that time.
So then what's your advice for a, quote, ‘happy retirement’? Because that's a lot of hours per day you have free at that point.
Totally. It is making sure that some of those hours in your day are spent in a way that feels productive and worthwhile. There's research that shows that retirees who do volunteer work, you don't see a dip in satisfaction.
Also within our data, we looked at people who spent their discretionary time in, quote unquote, ‘productive and worthwhile ways’, among the discretionary activities that tended to be hobbies. So developing your individual interests and cultivating those interests. It also involved exercise.
And so to the extent that in your retirement you develop a hobby such that you're spending your hours in ways that feel worthwhile.
And actually getting back to the distinction within social media, what's good versus bad, in technology, what's good versus bad.
It's not the discretionary time that is relaxing and passive is bad, but too much of it is actually what makes it bad.
If you spend those available hours in ways that feel fulfilling and worthwhile and productive for you personally, that's the solution to not have that retirement funk.
Believe it or not, podcasting is what fills that vacuum for me. Seriously.
I think my podcast will be more fully appreciated after I die, but that's a different discussion, so we don't need to go there.
I think it's very much appreciated now. And I love the fact that it is filling you, while also, and I suspect the reason that it feels so worthwhile is it not only allows you to connect with remarkable people, but you are inspiring all of the listeners.
You're doing good. Thank you.
At the very minimum, roughly fifty-two times a year, I have to read a new book. I had to read your book to do this. This week I have to understand happiness and belonging. A week could go it was the implications of Roe v. Wade.
Two weeks ago, it was astrophysics with Neil deGrasse Tyson.
So every week I have to understand something completely different, which I hope is going to prevent dementia.
It's fantastic, and you're framing it as have to, but the fact that you get to, that this is the way that you're spending your time, that you get to learn this great stuff.
I'm fascinated with your opinion of the old yarn that if you want something done, ask someone who's busy.
You know what, I hate it, because I keep being asked to do stuff, and yes, people who are busy tend to be able to get things done. But that doesn't mean that it's fair. I do not support, whether it's true or not, I don't support that approach.
Well, one more question about time. How does one gift time or give time?
Yes, you can do it through giving experiential gifts. And we have research that shows that when you give an experiential gift it makes the recipient feel closer and connected to you.
And that could be buying them a wonderful dinner, getting them concert tickets. You can also gift time by fully showing up with the time that you're spending with the other person. Bring the Relationship Closeness Induction Task, and ask those questions, gift that time of an opportunity for you to really connect with each other.
And from that time that you have spent, you will come away, both of you will come away fuller and happier. And that's a lovely gift.
You have mentioned twice the hedonic adaptation or hedonic treadmill concept.
First, I'm going to let you explain that so that people who heard it twice are wondering what it is now know.
You use that as if everybody understands what that is. I didn't know that till twenty-four hours ago.
First let's explain that concept.
It's a really important one because it is a big contributor to how happy we feel in our day-to-day and how satisfied we feel from particular stimuli in our life.
Hedonic adaptation is our propensity to emotionally adapt to stimuli after repeated exposure.
If I'm eating a tub of ice cream, how do I feel from that first bite, that second bite, that tenth bite, that twentieth bite when I'm at the bottom of the tub?
The first bite is delicious, because I am fully attending. I haven't started adapting yet. The second bite's still delicious. When I get to bite ten, I'm probably thinking about other things. Bite thirty I might actually start feeling sick.
We adapt to stimuli.
And this is actually really good when we are exposed to negative stimuli, that is over the course of the pandemic we got used to very negative experiences, that we were shut out in our homes. We couldn't see others. We were wearing masks, but we got used to it.
And we were able to, those negative features stopped affecting us quite as strongly. The reason that it is so important to understand the role of hedonic adaptation, is that not only does it help us be resilient and get used to, or less affected by negative stimuli, it makes us less affected and stop paying attention to the joys that are in our life.
If you can think about, if you have a partner, think back to the very first time that person told you that they love you. And it's like fireworks in your heart, in your head. It is so affecting. That first time is like that first bite of ice cream.
Then that person, if you're married to them for ten years, “I love you” and the impact of those words have become words that you say as you're leaving the house, “Love you” to hang up the phone.
The meaning, the impact of those words has started to wane. Now, it's important to recognize that this happens because there is so much joy that is in our lives if we just continue to pay attention to it.
And one way that you can do that, if I ask you now, think back on your last week, what was something that brought you intense joy? And I encourage you to think for yourself.
Oftentimes when I ask people to share these very mundane moments of, for me, I can say having coffee, a little coffee date with my six-year-old daughter, she has hot chocolate, don't worry. I don't caffeinate my daughter.
But in that moment, it's those thirty minutes that it's the two of us and we're chit-chatting and delighting in each other's company, that is such a mundane everyday experience. And it's so every day that we tend to assume it will continue to happen every day.
By assuming that it will happen every day, we stop paying attention, we stop treasuring it quite as much. But if you actually count the times that you have left, and this is an exercise that I have my students do and I talk about in Happier Hour, counting the times you have left so that you can see of the total amount of times in your life to do that experience, what percentage do you have left? And so my coffee date with my daughter, she's only six.
If I calculated the number of times I've had coffee dates with her in the past, on my maternity leave it was every day. This was my source of joy. I would bundle her up and we'd go to the coffee shop and I'd have my date.
Then it was every week after we dropped my son off at carpool on the way to preschool, we would have our little coffee date. But she's six now and we have it weekly.
In just a couple years she's going to prefer to go to the coffee shop with her friends. Then she's going to go to college, probably on the East Coast. Then she's going to have a job in New York, probably far away from me. And at some point I'm not going to live forever.
So if I calculate and I did calculate how many coffee dates do I likely have left with my daughter? And I realized that I have about 36 percent of our total coffee dates in our life together left. And she's only six.
And while initially it might be, oh my gosh, this is a terrible exercise, it makes me want to cry. What it's actually really profoundly impactful, because what it does is it makes me prioritize that time with her now.
I am not going to take a meeting at eight o'clock on a Thursday because that's when we have our coffee date. I protect the time.
When we're spending the time, I am definitely going to put my phone away, so that it's not distracting me from our time, our little chit chatting together, so I make more of that time.
And that specialness makes us not only pay attention during it, but touch back to it and remember it and anticipate it next Thursday, we get to look forward to this coffee date.
Even though it's only thirty minutes, the impact of that thirty minutes spreads over our week overall in a much more profound way. The way you offset hedonic adaptation is to realize that these things that we take for granted, because they've continued to happen, will not continue to happen going forward.
There are other ways to offset it, in using variety in your experiences, taking a break from experiences, but hedonic adaptation is something that you have to counter, so that you continue to enjoy as much happiness from those everyday moments as is there available.
Do you love any sports that you actually participate in, that you do?
Yes. I run, and now I'm playing tennis.
Okay. Let's say you're a runner.
So the first time you finished your first Five-K, you're ecstatic, right? You finished it. And the next time you're working your way up to a marathon. And then now you've run twenty-five marathons.
So hedonic adaptation means you're getting less positive feedback from completing a marathon than you did your first one. But can't you also make the case that hedonic adaptation forces you, or I don't know, force is a bad word, but causes you to strive for greater and greater achievement?
Can't it be a net positive that because it's no longer a big deal to run a Five-K, so you push yourself to run twenty-six miles, isn't that a good thing?
It is motivating, right? It motivates you to strive for more.
The question is, if you're looking at how do you optimize your satisfaction in life? If it's always, what's more? What's next? Instead of enjoying and celebrating the accomplishments, even if it is along the way that is happening now, then you're likely to miss out.
I want every time you finish a race to feel so proud and satisfied with it before you start thinking about what's next. My husband is very prone to this, that it is always achievement, and there's never a celebration of what's been achieved, because there's always like, okay, what's next?
And you get wonderful results, but you also are missing out on not only enjoyment and satisfaction along the way, but it's reducing the satisfaction that you'll ultimately have because you don't want it always to be what's next, you want to savor while it's happening as well.
Maybe I should interview your husband too.
He's a wonderful conversationalist.
And the first fifteen minutes we'll spend getting to know each other.
I completely understand the metaphor you made about golf balls, rocks, sand and water. I.e., you put the big things in the jar first.
But what if you are the kind of person, not that I'm that kind of person, but let's say that aren't there people who I got to get the sand and the water out of the way before I can put the golf balls in my life?
That's the trap. That's totally the trap. Because there's never going to be time for the golf balls. So do you want me to describe the analogy for the listeners?
Yes. Yes. Yes.
Yes. It's a really important analogy because it is absolutely about the importance of prioritization. In the very first day of class I show my students this video of a professor walking into his classroom, I don't actually know why I don't just do this myself, I am a professor.
But anyway, the professor walks into the classroom, first day of class, and he puts this large clear jar on the table. And out from a bag, he pulls a bunch of golf balls and he seemingly fills the jar. He puts the golf balls in the bag so that the golf balls reach the very top of the jar.
And he asks the students, “Is the jar full?”
And they're like, “Yeah”, the golf balls reach the top.
And then he's like, “All right.”
And then from the bag he pulls a bunch of pebbles and he pours the pebbles into the jar and it fills the area around the golf balls.
And he asks the students, “Is the jar full now?”
And they're like, “Yeah”.
And then he's like, aha.
And from the bag, he pulls some sand that he pours. And the sand fills all the crevices between the golf balls, between the pebbles.
And he asks, “Is the jar full?”
And they're like, “Yes”.
And he describes that the golf balls are those important things, those are those sources of joy.
For me, my coffee date with my daughter. Currently for you, your podcast time, your time texting with your son. This is the stuff that fills you and brings you joy.
The pebbles are all these other stuff job like job and work or the car that you drive, whatever. Sand is everything else. Sand is all this stuff that fills your time, whether it's passive social media, it is all the tasks that are thrown at you, the administrative tasks, the email inbox.
If you let the sand get put into your jar first, and the jar is your time. That is the time of your life. If you put the sand in first, the golf balls actually wouldn't all fit into the jar.
And then also, actually after he filled the sand, then he pulled out from the bag two bottles of Corona. He opened one, he pours it over the jar that was presumably full. And one of the students says, professor, the golf balls are the important things.
The sand is everything else. What's up with the beer? And he's like, that just goes to show that no matter how busy you are, how full you feel your time is, there's always time to have a beer with a friend.
And this is a really important analogy for all of us to keep in mind, because we are so susceptible to sand filling our time.
We are so susceptible to saying yes to those incoming requests, regardless of whether they're important, they just seem urgent.
And by filling our time with that sand, and you can identify for yourself what your sand is by actually the time tracking exercise that I talked about earlier, of looking at what is filling your weeks, that your ratings are mediocre or in some cases negative, what's that sand?
Because you want to offset the sand from filling your time jar, you need to put the golf balls in first, you need to set and protect the time.
I carve out time from the coffee date with my daughter.
Whatever your golf balls are, put those into your schedule first, make the time, and then sure there can be sand, there will be sand, and it will fill all the crevices, but at least it won't crowd out the space where your golf balls go.
Okay. Sand for me is email.
I have found a solution to that, which is a virtual assistant. So she handles the sand while I try to focus on the pebbles and the golf balls.
But, yes, because most people know my email address is guykawasaki@gmail. And so hundreds of emails come in there every day. She takes the first pass at that, and what she can handle, she handles, what only I can handle she forwards to me.
And the spam and all that is thrown away. So she probably gets rid of 90 percent. And then even the stuff, the 10 percent that she sends to me, I send back to her that email saying yes or no.
And so then she has crafted these wonderful, empathetic things, “Thank you very much for this opportunity to work with you. However, I'm focused on podcasting and Canva. So despite the fact that your opportunity is so attractive and so interesting, I just don't have the bandwidth to do it.”
They get this really heartfelt email and then they send back an email saying, I never expected you to answer at all-
You're giving yourself away right now.
Now those people who get those heartfelt emails, they are going to be like, Ugh, that virtual assistant.
There are two conclusions from that.
One is, any response is I think good for karma, that you responded or your virtual assistant responded at all is good.
But that shouldn't be the sand that grinds everything to a halt for you.
And I also think this is one of those gifts of time. She's a gift of time to me.
And then going back even further to the 100,000 a year theory, if I didn't make more than that, I could not afford to have her. So money is buying this gift of time.
To the extent that you spend the money to give yourself the gift of time, and then you reallocate those hours or what would've been spent on the sandy email, on things that are fulfilling to you, which is wonderful.
So you can spend money wisely, but the solution for happiness is through better time.
Okay. If you're out there listening and you got a heartfelt email rejection from me, you should know it didn't come from me.
But they can feel really good that you are spending your time in ways that keep you going and keep you motivated and fulfilled.
I'm spending my time doing valuable things like podcasting. So there you go. So there you go.
Because it takes a considerable amount of prep and editing to do a podcast.
It's not as simple as turn on their record button.
As you said, you read the books, and you learn, and you integrate, and then you have the conversations on that.
I have a theory in podcasting that the most important thing you can do as a podcaster is your very first question should put the guest in the mindset of, “Holy shit, this guy, this gal really prepared. This guy is not just asking me ‘So what makes you happy?’”
When somebody can dive deep into what's The Relationship Closeness Induction Task? That means that person has prepared, which then I hope, so you got that question and you said to yourself, Oh my God, Guy has prepared, I got to be at the top of my game for this podcast.”
And it's like, we get to dig in. Here we go. And it totally. Yes.
When I'm on the opposite side, I hate when the first question is, “So what was it like working at Apple?”
Well, shit. How many times do I have to answer that question?
Well, you do an amazing job with these podcasts. And I love listening to yours, because it does bring out a very interesting angle and part of the person whom you're talking to.
Okay. Tell me the truth, won't Cassie's ideas help you lead a happier life?
I'm pretty sure they will.
I'm Guy Kawasaki. This is Remarkable People. We're the folks who are on a mission to make you remarkable.
The team includes Jeff Sieh, Peg Fitzpatrick, Shannon Hernandez, Madisun, drop in queen of Santa Cruz with an AOL like internet connection, Luis Magana, and Alexis Nishimura.
Until next time Mahalo and Aloha.