Do we live as One, Whole and in Truth….?

I was recently having some very deep conversations with friends around life, the subject matter was ‘Do we live a life of One, Whole and in Truth?’, the general concensus of this conversation was that ‘life’ is incredibly complex, there are lots of things going on in our environments and in our lives and at all times, and in order to hold onto our experience, we need to make meaning out of it.

There is only one person to research depth on the subject and I found a quote from the great Albert Einstein that states: ‘A human being is part of the whole, called by us ‘Universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation, and a foundation for inner security’
Like everything in life, it is entirely possible to be happy with just one person for your whole life, my belief is that this is based on two factors;
1. How much your motivations and purpose is for that person?
2. Is it a union of one, whole and are you being truthful to that person and yourself?

As humans, we are conscious of our own sensations, thoughts and feelings. We each have the sense of being a self-contained individual. What makes each of us unique? Our name? Our genes? Our environment? Or the person we have become as we inwardly determine every moment of our lives?

All people whatever their race, education and background are united because there is an infinite creative force for all that is humane in the world. This is the underlying divinity of love which integrates together all who receive this inspiration.

Do we live in truth?

We live in a post-truth world. The problem is in the technological world of information and importantly the way we humans communicate via online and collaboration tools and apps, do we communicate the truth?

It takes courage to be the person you really are. There really is no magic pill or solution to make this happen, especially in a world that constantly sends you messages about who you should be. All of this talk takes you away from being true to yourself. It leads you to live the life you think others want you to have.

This way of living takes you away from authenticity and truth. You ignore your desires and retort to what’s not even a best second on what you truly want to do or the person you really want to be.

Thinking you can fulfill your obligations first, then pursue your dreams, is an illusion. It may seem to be the best option sometimes, but this way of viewing the world diminishes your value and power over the long run.

A scary source of factual information now reveals one in seven adults in a long-term relationship, is with someone who isn’t the love of their life:
• 73% ‘make do’ with partner as ‘true love’ slipped through fingers
• A quarter of adults have been in love with two people at the same time
• 17% have met love of life since getting together with long-term partner
• Men are more loyal to partners
• 60% believe it takes 10 weeks to know if someone is right for them

The results showed it can be hard to find “the one” and although the general perception is that women tend to fall in love more often than men, it was intriguing to see that in reality both men and women fall in love on average two times in their life. What is alarming is that so many people claim to be in long term relationships or even married to someone who isn’t the true love of their life.

And if there are people out there who are genuinely in love with two people at the same time, they must face a huge dilemma.

Are you ready to live a life of truth and self-acceptance? Live your truth right here, right now. What does this mean exactly?

It means to live your most truthful self. Inside you are a person waiting to jump out and live in truth and openness. Most of us spend our days living up to expectations and definitions. In this way you, me, all of us are living to be someone different than who we truly are. This is a lie. It is time to live your truth and own it.

Mindfulness is one way of focusing on your inner self, what are my dreams, fears, what will it take for me to have unconditional love and what are my real needs for longstanding fulfillment? It is about taking time out to pay attention to the present moment, without judgement.

In a world where the amount of stress one heaps on oneself can be seen as a badge of honour, we need to recognise the ways of reducing the potential negative impact of exhaustion and mindfulness is a great place to start. It allows us to take a step back and refresh our perspective on the world, to decide on a better response to the challenges we face, and to really focus. Neuroscientists have proven that no matter how good we are, our brains are simply not capable of operating effectively on more than one complex task at a time.

The fact that we are all intrinsically connected is not some fluffy principle someone made up, it is something which you can experience right now in your daily life. But the way we usually live our lives in this heavily technological environment our awareness and individual senses are hovering right below the signs so to speak. So, we rarely, if ever, see it.

Once you begin practicing mindfulness you can begin to see the natural rhythm of life and how we all depend on so many different things just to come to be as we are in the present and to continue on living each day.

And this is not limited to people either. This includes all other living and non-living things- on land, in the ocean, and in the sky. This can be seen in very concrete ways – in the way we depend on the coral reefs or on the delivery of our local food and water supply for instance – but also in a much deeper way. In a very real way, we exist in the clouds, in the rain, and in the mountains. And they are within us.

This single realisation can change the way we live our entire life’s. From the way you treat others, to what you devote your time to, to the products you consume, and the causes you support.

Finally, having understanding and interests, we can join together in a common purpose. This idea is similar to the way different components of the human body fit together to form a whole healthy body. Each part depends on the others as long as they are not diseased, for the whole to function properly.

The million-dollar question is do we want to be One, Whole and live in Truth……

A great quote by Menachem Begin:

“Peace is the beauty of life. It is sunshine. It is the smile of a child, the love of a mother, the joy of a father, the togetherness of a family. It is the advancement of man, the victory of a just cause, the triumph of truth.”

Can growing a vine teach us about a sustained life?

I recently visited a good friend and international wine expert in his province of Spain, I love spending time with Aitor and his family, there is always an amazing welcoming and its always wine-o-clock.

Recently Aitor has been occupied with Orange wines – this was a real education for me to learn about the uniqueness of this special wine and its verital.

So I asked Aitor, exactly what is an ‘Orange Wine’ he replied, ‘my friend orange wines are the most characterful, thrilling and food-friendly styles available today, with their deep hues, intense aromas and complex flavours. The counter charge is robust: orange is the emperor’s new clothes, beloved only of trendy sommeliers and hipsters who forgive their oxidised, faulty nature. These wines are unpalatable with curiosity’.

So, I responded, ‘what exactly is an orange wine?’ Aitor said ‘The term is increasingly used for white wines where the grapes were left in contact with their skins for days, weeks or even months. Effectively, this is white wine made as if it were a red. The result differs not only in colour, but is also markedly more intense on the nose and palate, sometimes with significant tannins.

Aitor proceeded to his wine cellar and returned with a Ronco Severo Friulano. DOC Colli Orientali Del Friuli. Friulano 100%. This wine is incredibly special and stays on its lees for 11 months in 30-hectoliter Slavonian oak barrels, and undergoes bâtonnage every 3 days. The wine then ages in the same barrels for about another 12 months.

After tasting this incredible wine I started to think about wine any experienced wineologist will tell you that sunshine is essential for the growth of vines. The sunshine warms the earth, so that the vines can be softened by moist soil, and then it germinates. Sunshine plays an important role in the growth cycle of vines. Germination does not take place unless the vine has been transported to a favorable environment where there is adequate water, oxygen, and a suitable temperature.

Differing species of vines germinate best in different temperatures; as a rule extremely cold or extremely warm temperatures do not favor the germination of vines. Some seeds require adequate exposure to light before germinating.

Orange wine organic bio-dynamic farming

From a biblical perspective and in the bible (John 15:5-8) “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and {so} prove to be my disciples.

This made me think about wine and its process for production, one fact is clear, you must have very good soil to grow such grapes that make these famous orange wines. However, I was stood corrected you cannot grow good grapes in good soil.

I thought this was incredibly curious and so when I got back home I looked it up on the internet. Aitor was right of course. I learned that bad soil yields higher quality grapes than good soil because, in poor soil, the vines have to work harder, branching off more roots to gather nutrients. Not only does this increase the amount of nutrients that ultimately get to the grape, but it also regulates how much water the plant gets. If a vine has too much water, the result is a fat, characterless grape.

This is a perfect metaphor for we humans as well. Trials and challenges rise before us like mountains. But mountains can raise us or bury us depending on which side of the mountain we choose to stand.

Vines and humans can create a legacy and can be in the same, certainly, a legacy is a contribution to humanity. A legacy provides value to future generations. However, if you are creating your ideal legacy, it will also make your heart bubble with passion and excitement today in the process.

Living our unique purpose makes us feel alive. It allows us to enrich and enthusiastically dedicate our time to worthwhile missions of our choosing. Living purposefully, we focus on our objectives with the resolve needed to finish our legacy or purpose in life for humanity.

We all have a purpose. However, it is important to recognise it and keep it clearly in mind. Think about the things for which you would like future generations to remember you. Give yourself permission to embrace and achieve them. Become the master architect of your life and those negative experiences you will leave behind.

Ultimately it’s a matter of choice. History and life teach us that more times than not we do not succeed in spite of our challenges and difficulties but, rather, precisely because of them.

Even a grape knows that…..

M.F.K. Fisher once said:

“I can no more think of my own life without thinking of wine and wines and where they grew for me and why I drank them when I did and why I picked the grapes and where I opened the oldest procurable bottles, and all that, than I can remember living before I breathed.”

Is human time travel truly possible?

I recently wrote a blog named ‘The Value of Time’ – the subject has always fascinated me and the more you think about time, without watching movies like ‘Back to the Future’ and ‘Dr Who’ you start to think, just maybe time is a metaphor for many other possibilities?

I read an article recently which was indicative of time travel is theoretically possible, that scientists have said there is no mathematical reason why a time travel machine could not be able to disrupt the spacetime continuum enough to go backwards in time, they suggested.

The study, published in the journal Classical and Quantum Gravity, is titled “Traversable acausal retrograde domains in spacetime”, which spells TARDIS – the name of Doctor Who’s famous police box time machine.

Gravitational waves find could let scientists build a ‘time machine’.

In the paper, mathematicians from the University of British Columbia and the University of Maryland proposed a mathematical model for a viable time machine, presenting geometry which has been designed to fit a layperson’s description of a ‘time machine’”, they wrote.

“It is a box which allows those within it to travel backwards and forwards through time and space, as interpreted by an external observer.”

One of the researchers, Ben Tippett, said: “People think of time travel as something fictional and we tend to think it’s not possible because we don’t actually do it. But, mathematically, it is possible.”

Any time travel machine would probably need to be able to warp spacetime – the connection between time and physical dimensions such as width, depth and height.

The subject fascinated me and I recently purchased a book called ‘Your brain is a time machine’ by Dean Buonomano, where he describes ‘Time’ as the most common noun in the English language. Buonomano states on the first page of his fabulous new book, despite fixation with time, and its obvious centrality in our lives, we still struggle to fully understand it.

Dean Buonomano, “Your Brain is a Time Machine”

Neuroscientist Dean Buonomano explains our sense of time in relation to physics. He’s in conversation with Ted Chiang, writer of “Story of Your Life”.

Could our theories about physics be informed by the very architecture of our brain?

From a psychology perspective, for instance, time seems to flow by, sometimes slowly like when we are stuck in line at the a supermarket and sometimes quickly like when we are lost in an engrossing novel. But from a physics perspective, time may be simply another dimension in the universe, like length, height, or width.

The human brain, Buonomano stated, is a time machine that allows us to mentally travel backward and forward, to plan for the future and agonisingly regret that past like no other animal. And, he argues, our brains are time machines like clocks are time machines: constantly tracking the passage of time, whether it’s circadian rhythms that tell us when to go to sleep, or microsecond calculations that allow us to the hear the difference between “They gave her cat-food” and “They gave her cat food.”

In an interview with Science of Us, Buonomano spoke about planning for the future as a basic human activity, the limits of be-here-now mindfulness, and the inherent incompatibility between physicists’ and neuroscientists’ understanding of the nature of time.

Why are humans unique in our ability to grasp the concept of time for the short- and long-term?

Let’s indulge in a little science fiction for a moment. Time travel movies often feature a vast, energy-hungry machine. The machine creates a path through the fourth dimension, a tunnel through time. A time traveller, a brave, perhaps foolhardy individual, prepared for who knows what, steps into the time tunnel and emerges who knows when. The concept may be far-fetched, and the reality may be very different from this, but the idea itself is not so crazy.

Physicists have been thinking about tunnels in time too, but we come at it from a different angle. They wonder if portals to the past or the future could ever be possible within the laws of nature. As it turns out, they think they are. What’s more, they have even given them a name: wormholes. The truth is that wormholes are all around us, only they are too small to see. Wormholes are very tiny. They occur in nooks and crannies in space and time.

Nothing is flat or solid. If you look closely enough at anything you’ll find holes and wrinkles in it. It is a basic physical principle, and it even applies to time. Even something as smooth as a pool ball has tiny crevices, wrinkles and voids. Now it’s easy to show that this is true in the first three dimensions. There are tiny crevices, wrinkles and voids in time. Down at the smallest of scales, smaller even than molecules, smaller than atoms, we get to a place called the quantum foam. This is where wormholes exist. Tiny tunnels or shortcuts through space and time constantly form, disappear, and reform within this quantum world. And they actually link two separate places and two different times.

Unfortunately, these real-life time tunnels are just a billion-trillion-trillionths of a centimeter across. Way too small for a human to pass through – but here is where the notion of wormhole time machines is leading. Some scientists think it may be possible to capture a wormhole and enlarge it many trillions of times to make it big enough for a human or even a spaceship to enter.

Given enough power and advanced technology, perhaps a giant wormhole could even be constructed in space. I’m not saying it can be done, but if it could be, it would be a truly remarkable device. One end could be here near Earth, and the other far, far away, near some distant planet.

So, in conclusion and in theory, a time tunnel or wormhole could do even more than take us to other planets. If both ends were in the same place, and separated by time instead of distance, a ship could fly in and come out still near Earth, but in the distant past. Maybe dinosaurs would witness the ship coming in for a landing.

To physicists, time is what is measured by clocks. Using this definition, we can manipulate time by changing the rate of clocks, which changes the rate at which events occur. Einstein showed that time is affected by motion, and his theories have been demonstrated experimentally by comparing time on an atomic clock that has traveled around the earth on a jet. It is slower than a clock on earth.
Although the jet-flying clock regained its normal pace when it landed, it never caught up with earth clocks – which means that we have a time traveller from the past among us already, even though it thinks it’s in the future.

Some people show concern over time traveling, although Mallett – an advocate of the Parallel Universes theory – assures us that time machines will not present any danger.

As HG Wells said in ‘The Time Machine’:

“The time traveller proceeded, “any real body must have extension in four directions: it must have Length, Breadth, Thickness and Duration. But through a natural infirmity of the flesh, which I will explain to you in a moment, we incline to overlook this fact. There are really four dimentions, three which we call the three planes of Space, and a fourth, Time.”

Can we really teach robots ethics and morality…

I was having a regular coffee with a very good friend and affluent data scientist at the Institute of Directors recently in London, we share many great past times including reading and writing, and were discussing at our meeting ethical and moral values with robots, my question was can we teach robots right from wrong.

The facts are artificial intelligence (AI) is outperforming humans in a range of areas, but can we program or teach robots to behave ethically and morally?

Twitter has admitted that as many as 23 million (8.5 percent) of its user accounts are autonomous Twitterbots. Many are there to increase productivity, conduct research, or even have some fun. Yet many have been created with harmful intentions. In both cases, the bots have been known to behave with questionable ethics – maybe because they’re merely minor specimens of artificial intelligence (AI).

Humans are currently building far-more sophisticated machines which will face questions of ethics on monumental scales. Even in the mortality of human beings. So how do we make sure they make the right choices when the time comes?

Now, all of this is based on the idea that a computer can even comprehend ethics.

If cognitive machines don’t have the capacity for ethics, who is responsible when they break the law?

Currently, no one seems to know. Ryan Calo of the University of Washington School of Law notes: “Robotics combines, for the first time, the promiscuity of data with the capacity to do physical harm; robotic systems accomplish tasks in ways that cannot be anticipated in advance; and robots increasingly blur the line between person and instrument.”

The process for legislation is arduously slow, while technology, on the other hand, makes exponential haste.

The crimes can be quite serious, too. Netherlands developer Jeffry van der Goot had to defend himself — and his Twitterbot — when police knocked on his door, inquiring about a death threat sent from his Twitter account. Then there’s Random Darknet Shopper; a shopping bot with a weekly allowance of $100 in Bitcoin to make purchases on Darknet for an art exhibition. Swedish officials weren’t amused when it purchased ecstasy, which the artist put on display. (Though, in support for artistic expression they didn’t confiscate the drugs until the exhibition ended.)

In both of these cases, authorities did what they could within the law, but ultimately pardoned the human proprietors because they hadn’t explicitly or directly committed crimes. But how does that translate when a human being unleashes an AI with the intention of malice?

Legions of robots now carry out our instructions unreflectively. How do we ensure that these creatures, regardless of whether they’re built from clay or silicon, always work in our best interests?

Should we teach them to think for themselves? And if so, how are we to teach them right from wrong?

In 2017, this is an urgent question. Self-driving cars have clocked up millions of miles on our roads while making autonomous decisions that might affect the safety of other human road-users. Roboticists in Japan, Europe and the United States are developing service robots to provide care for the elderly and disabled. One such robot carer, which was launched in 2015 and dubbed Robear (it sports the face of a polar-bear cub), is strong enough to lift frail patients from their beds; if it can do that, it can also, conceivably, crush them. Since 2000 the US Army has deployed thousands of robots equipped with machineguns, each one able to locate targets and aim at them without the need for human involvement (they are not, however, permitted to pull the trigger unsupervised).

Public figures have also stoked the sense of dread surrounding the idea of autonomous machines. Elon Musk, a tech entrepreneur, claimed that artificial intelligence is the greatest existential threat to mankind. Last summer the White House commissioned four workshops for experts to discuss this moral dimension to robotics. As Rosalind Picard, director of the Affective Computing Group at MIT puts it: “The greater the freedom of a machine, the more it will need moral standards.”

Teaching robots how to behave on the battlefield may seem straightforward, since nations create rules of engagement by following internationally agreed laws. But not every potential scenario on the battlefield can be foreseen by an engineer, just as not every ethically ambiguous situation is covered by, say, the Ten Commandments. Should a robot, for example, fire on a house in which a high value target is breaking bread with civilians? Should it provide support to a group of five low-ranking recruits on one side of a besieged town, or one high-ranking officer on the other? Should the decision be made on a tactical or moral basis?

In conclusion of whether we should teach robots or not right from wrong, you should think about science fiction or a James Bond movie, the moment at which a robot gains sentience is typically the moment at which we believe that we have ethical obligations toward our creations. The idea of formalising ethical guidelines is not new.
More than seven decades ago, science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov described the “three laws of robotics”: a moral compass for artificial intelligence. The laws required robots to:

  • protect humans
  • obey instructions
  • preserve themselves

(in that order).

The fundamental premise behind Asimov’s laws was to minimize conflicts between humans and robots. In Asimov’s stories, however, even these simple moral guidelines lead to often disastrous unintended consequences. Either by receiving conflicting instructions or by exploiting loopholes and ambiguities in these laws, Asimov’s robots ultimately tend to cause harm or lethal injuries to humans.Today, robotics requires a much more nuanced moral code than Asimov’s “three laws.”

An iPhone or a laptop may be inscrutably complex compared with a hammer or a spade, but each object belongs to the same category: tools. And yet, as robots begin to gain the semblance of emotions, as they begin to behave like human beings, and learn and adopt our cultural and social values, perhaps the old stories need revisiting. At the very least, we have a moral obligation to figure out what to teach our machines about the best way in which to live in the world. Once we have done that, we may well feel compelled to reconsider how we treat them…..

As Thomas Bangalter once said:

“The concept of the robot encapsulates both aspects of technology. On one hand it’s cool, it’s fun, it’s healthy, it’s sexy, it’s stylish. On the other hand it’s terrifying, it’s alienating, it’s addictive, and it’s scary. That has been the subject of much science-fiction literature.”

What really happened to Hemingway…

Many years ago, I have the fortune to visit Key West with a great friend of mine who has a love for motorcycle experiences, we drove on the Harley from Miami to Key West on our latest adventure.

We decided to visit Ernest Hemingway’s House in Key West, Hemingway was an incredible man, truly a genius of his kind, who had an attitude toward living and life that was like no other, and very few have received a Nobel Prize.

Ernest Miller Hemingway (July 21, 1899 – July 2, 1961) was an American novelist, short story writer, and journalist. His economical and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the mid-1950s, and won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. He published seven novels, six short story collections, and two non-fiction works. Additional works, including three novels, four short story collections, and three non-fiction works, were published posthumously. Many of his works are considered classics of American literature.

On July 2nd 1961 Ernest Hemingway committed suicide at the age of sixty-one. There have been five suicides in the Hemingway family in more than four generations – Hemingway’s dad, Clarence; children Ursula, Leicester and Ernest; and granddaughter Margaux. The generation skipped barely escaped: Hemingway’s most youthful child, originally called Gregory, died in 2001 after coming out as a woman, Gloria, of reasons that put a ton of strain on the expression “natural.”

What really happened to Ernest Hemmingway…….it is still a remaining mystery, his genius, the constant rewriting, the constant searching for a better phrase, a better word. Hemingway was completely ruthless with himself, as you would expect with such a successful author.

Adversity of any magnitude should make us stronger and fill us with life’s wisdom, why someone from whom became so successful at 61 in 1961 should take his own life, is something that I cannot quite comprehend or understand.

However, art in any form is born from adversity, I wrote ‘Freedom after the Sharks’ from adversity and set up a business in the double dip of 2008 and 2009, many people have done the same and it is almost a universal theme in the lives of many of the world’s most eminent creative minds. For artists who have struggled with physical and mental illness, parental loss during childhood, social rejection, heartbreak, abandonment, abuse, and other forms of trauma, creativity often becomes an act of turning difficulty and challenge into opportunity.

Much of the music we listen to, the plays we see, the books we read, and the paintings we look at among other forms of performing art are attempts to find meaning in human suffering. Art seeks to make sense of everything from life’s potentially smallest moments of sadness to its most earth-shattering tragedies. You have heard the statement ‘there is a book in everyone’ we all experience and struggle with suffering. In our individual and collective quest to understand the darker sides of human life, works of art like Kahlo’s self-portraits, which show us the truth of another’s pain and loneliness, carry the power to move us deeply in emotion.

We are constantly told, throughout our lives, that what does not kill us makes us stronger. It is difficult to think of a phrase that is more deeply ingrained in our cultural imagination than that one, Bob Marley once staid ‘“You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.” .Platitude though it may be, the expression has become common parlance because it expresses a fundamental truth of human psychology: Experiences of extreme adversity show us our own strength. And in the wake of trying times, many people not only return to their baseline state of functioning, but learn to truly thrive.

Writer Andrew Solomon has spent his career telling stories of the hardships of others. In the following video, a moving, heartfelt and at times downright funny talk, Solomon gives a powerful call to action to forge meaning from our biggest struggles:

My final word on the subject is that determination, resilience, and persistence are the enabler for people to push past their adversities and prevail. Overcoming adversity is one of our main challenges in life. When we resolve to confront and overcome it, we become expert at dealing with it and consequently triumph over our day-to-day struggles.

As Eckhart Tolle once said:

“Whenever something negative happens to you, there is a deep lesson concealed within it.”

Do we marry just people or real connections?

Some of you will remember a blog that I wrote in July 2015 called ‘Can Love Last Forever’ – this was written just before another interesting blog ‘Can Love Conquer All or is Love a Myth?’. I have often written on the subject of love and relationships and recently reminisced on the subject ‘Do we marry just people in our life, or do we marry real connections?’

Or as William Shakesphere once said in his play is ‘The World Just a Stage?

The meaning of this phrase is that this world is like a stage and all human beings are merely actors – Oscar Wilde has put his spin on this phrase, declaring that, “The world is a stage, and the play is badly cast.” Allan Moore in his novel, V for Vendetta, has taken it to a completely new level by saying that, “All the world’s a stage, and everything else is vaudeville.” Now notice how people love to quote this phrase, because it sounds very clever, and they believe that this line has something that still resonates today.

With the world stage aside the facts are instead of strong, meaningful conversations and relationships, we struggle through long series of bad dates and so called hook-ups. Instead of meeting people in real life, we are constantly swiping and messaging somebody new. Instead of telling people how we feel, we do not text back. We no longer have people cancel, we get flaked on, and then we flake on other people. We no longer date or commit, we “see” and “hang out” with each other. We are complicit in a dating culture that systematically prevents intimacy. I believe and evidence certainly supports this, that we have become a generation afraid of being in love.

One could say “We are complicit in a dating culture that systematically prevents intimacy”.

I read a recent article from UCLA called ‘What does being committed to your marriage really mean?’ UCLA psychologists answered this question in a new study based on their analysis of 172 married couples over the first 11 years of marriage.

“When people say, ‘I’m committed to my relationship,’ they can mean two things,” said study co-author Benjamin Karney, a professor of psychology and co-director of the Relationship Institute at UCLA. “One thing they can mean is, ‘I really like this relationship and want it to continue.’ However, commitment is more than just that.”

The psychologists’ report demonstrated that a deeper level of commitment, is a much better predictor of lower divorce rates and fewer problems in marriage.

Of the 172 married couples in the study, 78.5 percent were still married after 11 years, and 21.5 percent were divorced. The couples in which both people were willing to make sacrifices for the sake of the marriage were significantly more likely to have lasting and happy marriages, according to Bradbury, Karney and lead study author Dominik Schoebi, a former UCLA postdoctoral scholar who is currently at Switzerland’s University of Fribourg.

So, do we marry a ‘soul mate’ or a ‘life partner’?

Soul Mate:
Someone who is aligned with your soul and is sent to challenge, awaken and stir different parts of you in order for your soul to transcend to a higher level of consciousness and awareness. Once the lesson has been learnt, physical separation usually occurs.

Life Partner:
A companion, a friend, a stable and secure individual who you can lean on, trust and depend on to help you through life. There is a mutual feeling of love and respect and you are both in sync with each others needs and wants.

At different times of our lives we will need and want different types of relationships. Neither is better or worse than the other, it is all a personal decision and one that you will feel guided to as long as you are following your heart.

In summary, our childhoods taught us to value love; but our institutions, cities, and technology have taught us to fear commitment and put choice first. We are trapped in a self-perpetuating cycle of emotional distance with each other. Most of us really want love at some point, but our actions are at war with this desire. We maintain emotional distance because we fear commitment and rejection, not because that is our true self. We replace the feeling of true intimacy with short term flings, long term noncommittal hook-ups, and sex. We comfort ourselves knowing at least we’re not feeling the stinging pain of a broken heart, at least we don’t have to deal with real emotions. My belief is that we have trapped ourselves in a cycle that we are all complicit within.

This cycle is detrimental to us all. Happiness means different things to different people. For some, it is marriage and kids, for others it is traveling the world, and for others it is a rainy day with a good book. One thing that we all share, however, is that having strong, positive relationships in our life is one of the keys to happiness and fulfillment. Even anecdotally, we know this to be true.

When we keep emotional distance because of the fear of rejection, we lose out on one of the most important aspects of being human. Deep inside, we know we are unfulfilled but we do not know how to fix ourselves. So, we play the game where there are no winners. We must break free from this culture that damages us all and learn to love again.

For most of us, improving our relationships is one of the best things we can do in our lives. For me, with this realisation and my committed effort to being more open, honest, and straightforward, I have been able to not only improve how I treat other people, but also the quality of my relationships with my circle of wonderful friends.

Maybe, this is the answer to a happier and more fulfilling life, maybe it will just make me a better person, and maybe it has lead me to finding love, my true love and soul mate. I just know I do not want to be complicit in modern dating culture anymore. I am happy when building real emotional connections in business and in life, and I guess, that is what we all want in the end,  to be happy and in love with real connections, real people, real life – not a world stage.

One of my favourite quotes by Oscar Wilde:

“Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.”

What can we learn from Darwin in today’s technological world

Charles Darwin was born on February 12, 1809. The world he was born into would be entirely unrecognisable to us today. Bicycles had yet to be invented, steam engines were just beginning to appear, and slavery was commonly practiced in both England and the United States. During the course of his lifetime, Darwin saw the world around him change enormously, but arguably the most significant change came from his own ideas. Darwin’s theory evolution of natural selection, altered the ways we think about almost every aspect of life.

While Darwin’s theory was ground breaking, shocking, and tremendously illuminating during his lifetime, what can it mean for us today? With all the time that has passed since Darwin’s birth, is there anything we can still learn from him? In the pursuit of science and everyday life, there are countless ways Darwin’s words still ring true today.

I recently watched a film called ‘Concussion’, which triggered the thoughts behind this blog. Starring Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian-born pathologist who brought the issue of brain damage in retired NFL players to the forefront, Concussion is the sort of underdog-stares-down-corporate-behemoth feature that reliably manages to stir up some awards buzz.

The true-life story began unfolding in September 2002 when Omalu, then with the Allegheny County coroner’s office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was assigned to perform an autopsy on the body of Mike Webster. Known as “Iron Mike,” Webster was a beloved former Pro Bowler with Pittsburgh Steelers, the anchor of a front line that helped the team win four Super Bowls. However, his mental health deteriorated to the point where he was ranting at strangers and zapping himself with a Taser gun, until his death from a heart attack at age 50.

In the film, Dr. Bennet Omalu did significant research across Darwin’s observations of birds and quoted in the film: ‘All of these animals have shock absorbers built into their bodies. The woodpecker’s tongue extends through the back of the mouth out of the nostril, encircling the entire cranium. It is the anatomical equivalent of a safety belt for its brain. Human beings? Not a single piece of our anatomy protects us from those types of collisions. A human being will get concussed at sixty G’s. A common head-to-head contact on a football field? One hundred G’s. God did not intend for us to play football.’

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was subsequently hauled in to testify before a House Judiciary Committee in October 2009 about safety measures, and stricter guidelines were established in the pro game to limit head injuries. Still, dozens of former players embarked on legal action against the NFL in 2011, claiming that the league had failed to adequately warn and protect them. As of the summer of 2015, more than 5,000 former players were involved in a consolidated lawsuit, with a settlement figure of $765 million deemed insufficient by a judge.

This was just one example of Darwin and his teachings in our fast-technological world, it could be said that we do not observe enough, and only in times of necessity or extreme need, as with the case with ‘Concussion.’

Nature is wonderful. Darwin taught us that complex animals like birds, frogs, and even humans came about in complex ways over long periods of time. Evidence for this history is everywhere, you just have to stop and notice the details. His vivid description of an entangled bank reminds me that there is wonder in acknowledging this simple fact from time to time:

“It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us.”

Beauty can be found in the struggle. Darwin knew all too well that nature can be brutal. Individual animals fight, starve, and die other horrible deaths. Darwin acknowledged that existence is a struggle, that nature is often at war, and that resources are scarce. Somehow, he still found solace in the end product:

“Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object of which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life…from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

We are all connected and we depend on each other. Evolution reminds us that all living creatures came about through the same basic principles. We all evolved from common ancestors in the remote past, from simple beginnings. Let’s return to Darwin’s entangled bank quote. He asks us to:

“….reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner…”

His theories are now associated with business through the concept of ‘Darwinian Economics’, namely that it is organisations that are best able to adapt that are most likely to survive.

But what else can you, entrepreneur, business leader or individual learn from Charles Darwin?

Use the power of observation. Many people are so busy making decisions, analysing problems and seeking answers that they pay no attention to simply observing. Darwin, on the other hand, spent much of his career observing. He spent six years, for example, dissecting and describing in eye-watering detail the structure of barnacles!

If you are observing you cannot be analysing, and vice versa, and it was Darwin’s observations that formed the basis of his idea that changed the world. His five years on the Beagle trip, for example, involved him taking thousands of samples of various species.
Observation requires getting out there, suspending your beliefs and simply taking note. It cannot be done from behind a desk through reports.

How much time do you spend on the front-line observing your team or your customers rather than analysing second or third-hand data?

Looking to the past for innovation breakthroughs. Darwin was not the first person to have thought of the concept for evolution: he was not even the first person in his own family to have the idea! His grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, had promulgated the idea that all animals had a common origin before Charles was born.

Similarly you can see the process of recombining ideas in other major breakthroughs and innovations. For example, Lou Gerstener refocused IBM away from hardware to service and consultancy support by connecting his prior (negative) experience as an IBM customer with his McKinsey consultancy experience and with the existence of a highly-active sales support unit within the company. This change in strategic direction transformed IBM from a company delivering record losses in the early 1990’s to multi-billion dollar profits by the end of the century.

What are you doing to make new connections that lead to new, breakthrough concepts?

You can only change the world through action, not thinking. Darwin sat on his theory for 17 years before he published ‘On The Origin Of The Species’. He held back publication in order to ensure that he had irrevocable evidence to support his theory (hence his interest in barnacles!). Darwin’s hand was only forced when a rival publication was developed and his desire to be seen as the originator of the idea of evolution overcame his need to be 100% certain of his ideas.

Likewise, taking action and prudent risks is the cornerstone of business growth and an offensive, rather than defensive strategy, is critical for ongoing survival and success. For example, Gillette has established market leadership by a stream of innovations that make their existing ranges obsolete. As a senior Gillette executive once said, “We have never launched a major new product without having its successor in development. You have to steer the market.”

In summary, the miraculous discoveries upon Darwin’s ideas established a philosophy by introducing the time factor, by demonstrating the importance of chance and contingency, and by showing that theories in evolution are based on a set of new principles that influence the thinking of every person in the living world, through evolution, can be explained without recourse to supernaturalism; essentialism or typology, and possibly one of the most important facts is that we must adopt population thinking, in which all individuals are unique with a belief and a can do attitude.

One of Darwin’s most famous quotes:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

What exactly is the future of global digital payments?

I recently attended an annual event hosted by The Emerging Payments Association (EPA) called ‘The Pay360 Digital Payments Annual Conference’, which took place this year at the Coombe Abbey Hotel in Warwickshire. The EPA brought together commercial association of decision makers from around the world to share insights over two days, which also included a medieval banquet at the 11th century Abbey, about what is driving success in digital payments in local markets, and to share best practice.

With all these insights, technological disruption and overload of data to the market, what exactly is the future of global digital payments?

2017 will be the year of instant digital payment which does instantaneous validation, acknowledgement, and transmission of transaction data between the point of sale and merchants system as opposed to 2016, which was “near real time,” which refers to expedited batches that may range from minutes apart to an hour or even more, real time is truly instantaneous processing.

Today’s consumers are quickly coming to expect immediate processing of their payments. Technological constraints of mobile devices may impact upon how much information a consumer is provided with during m-commerce transaction. Security and liability as mobile devices are particularly vulnerable to theft and misuse it is important for consumers to understand what protections are available to them in the case of unauthorise transactions.
So how do consumers engage confidently with a market that is constantly changing? How do regulators identify failures when markets emerge, and then change equally as quickly? One way to address these challenges is to identify underlying principles that remain constant, despite technological change.

Payment systems are pivotal in any economy given their role to facilitate the intermediation process, which is key to achieve financial stability. Payments are a daily and routine activity carried out by people in most parts of the world. These payments cover daily human requirements from transportation, food and communication. Some people transact 2-5 times in a day while some more than 20 times making them heavy users of payment systems.
More than a billion people in emerging and developing markets have cellphones but no bank accounts yet they don’t stop their contribution to payment industries, they still do their contribution each day and many low-income people store and transfer money using informal networks, but these have high transaction costs and are prone to theft.

Mobile money is beginning to fill this gap by offering financial services over mobile phones, from simple person-to-person transfers to more complex banking services. To date, there have been more than 100 mobile-money deployments in emerging markets; at least 84 of them originated in the past three years. In markets with real-time payments infrastructures, banks have managed to fight back and actually have taken the lead in P2P payments.
For example, Swedish banks have developed an app called Swish, and in the UK, Barclays is leading with its popular PingIt app. Even in markets yet to move to real-time payments, such as the US, banks are trying to recapture their position in money transfers. Recent examples of activity include Early Warning acquiring clearXchange, BBVA partnering with Dwolla, and TD Bank exploring opportunities with Ripple.

The facts are fin-tech is changing the way we buy, sell and transfer money. It is creating an innovative worldwide marketplace in the face of shifting global politics.

Consumers, businesses and families are now starting to now enjoy a truly global financial network on the same fair terms, wherever they are. Inconsistencies can be ironed out and risks can be reduced. This is not just down to product features: fintech innovations that help international payments take place are actually behind some major shifts in how the world works.
Many fintech company’s have woken up to the potential of artificial intelligence (AI), and with investment ramping up, machines and algorithms will be an even more common sight in financial services.

Embracing AI in banking allows financial institutions to tap into the wealth of data at their fingertips. As well as collecting and sorting data, companies can use AI to make more accurate decisions, identify risks quicker, and better understand their customers, bringing the personal touch back to big business.

Chatbots are becoming more and more sophisticated, and their usefulness in customer services is becoming increasingly clear.
Instead of picking up the phone, making their way through menus, and then waiting on hold just to ask someone a few simple questions, customers could simply head to their favourite messaging app and speak to a chatbot. This lets customers connect using the channel of their choice; and gives them access to quick, easy answers to simple questions, so that staff are freed up to focus on the more complicated queries and building deeper customer relationships.

Chatbot interactions will also produce more accurate data on why our customers are getting in touch, which brands can use to better identify common problems and develop solutions.

As well as deepening customer relationships, AI in Fin-Tech also has the potential to improve security. Telephony services can make use of speech-recognition technology to verify the caller’s identity, but AI, in particular Machine Learning, can be used in real time to prevent fraud.

AI has been something of a hot topic in the world of sci-fi, with the themes ranging from the uncomfortable to the apocalyptic. The real world has not progressed that far. However, as AI becomes more capable, the onus is on the financial services industry indeed, on every business introducing AI into the workplace to make sure that they deploy AI in sustainable, intentional and responsible ways.
That means thinking carefully about the speed at which AI is deployed, the roles it takes on, and how employees can continue to add value. Where appropriate, that means putting measures in place to re-train or re-deploy employees. Businesses must be proactive when it comes to AI, as its impact will be as wide-ranging as it is inevitable.

And then there is cryptocurrency, that aspires to become a part of financial set-up and is making significant headway in 2017. Cryptocurrency may have heavily-regulated issues to deal with in the years ahead, if it has plans for an acceptance and a sustainable global future.

The emergence of Bitcoin has sparked a discussion concerning its future which of alternative cryptocurrencies. Despite Bitcoin’s recent problems, its success since its 2009 launch has impressed the creation of different cryptocurrencies like Litecoin, Ripple and MintChip. A cryptocurrency that aspires to become a part of the thought financial set-up would have to be compelled to satisfy terribly divergent criteria. whereas that chance appearance remote, there’s very little doubt that Bitcoin’s success or failure in handling the challenges it faces might verify the fortunes of alternative cryptocurrencies within the years ahead.

In summary and from the conference, here are five international payment points that are changing the world.

1. The power of mobile banking is being unleashed across borders

Mobile banking is nothing new, but its status in the developing world is being elevated thanks to ubiquity of mobile phones and cellular networks. But what happens when money needs to move across a national border and over to a different mobile network?
By developing smarter ways of integrating with, and crossing networks and borders, companies like Beyonic, for example, allow businesses to make two-way payments across borders and telecom networks with the security of a normal bank but over a mobile. This is leading to a growth opportunities in African nations, where smarter, more connected businesses can thrive with minimal infrastructure investment.

2. Payments are adapting to a global and migratory workforce

We’re living in a time of global migration, where workers are able to travel to meet demand for their services. They’re often far from the places where their earnings would do the most good; in many cases, they find it hard to transfer money back home, especially if it’s a rural area. Fintech is offering solutions to the growing need to send money to these kinds of places with services such as Valapay, which recruits local affiliates to work as ‘Human ATMs’ in places where infrastructure is weak and transfer fees are high.
Transferwise, the crowdsourced currency exchange service that grew out of the idea of ‘swapping’ currencies between consumers to lower the cost of exchanging money. It’s one of a number of fintech companies that have revolutionaied the way we make payments

Money from official development assistance is dwarfed in comparison to the amount of money being sent home by workers abroad. In 2016, three times more money was remitted internationally than was sent as aid. By giving the migrant workforce a chance to send money efficiently, and with lower fees, fintech can help raise standards of living where it’s needed most.

3. Cross-border e-commerce

By 2020, it’s expected that some 940 million online shoppers will spend almost $1 trillion on cross-border e-commerce transactions. The rising number of purchases made on devices like smartphones and tablets in particular will continue to help propel this growth, with shoppers taking advantage of being able to quickly and easily purchase goods whilst they’re on the go. World First, whose business is to facilitate cross-border payments and settlements, is helping this global boom by offering businesses and consumers a wider range of ways over how they get their money between countries in an efficient and cost effective way.

4. Lending in developing economies is growing

Companies like Oikocredit and Lendwithcare have made it easy and commercial to invest small amounts of money in small businesses in the developing world. The World Bank estimates that 2.7 billion people lack access to basic financial services, so by offering communities and businesses ‘microloans’ to buy materials or equipment, initiatives like these can support steady growth in poorer regions.

Although returns are modest, this process is risk-assessed and managed with oversight, and with interest rates low across the board in the West, the advantages of investing in these economies are clear.

5. We are seeing the emergence of real-time, anywhere payments

The emergence of national real-time payments systems such as Faster Payments in the UK, plus the development and uptake of mobile P2P services on top of them like paymare evolutionary steps show that a global, cheap and instant way to move money is possible. Instant payments mean more trust between people, with the benefits that will bring to the supply chain. Instant payments also mean more efficient, responsive business, less reliant on credit and with less exposure to risk. McKinsey’s latest Global Banking Report found that banks are likely to step into this space by merging or collaborating with fintech companies, so a future of traditional banking and fintech working together even more is already on the cards.

In conclusion, an innovative leap is currently taking place under the keywords of social media and Fin-Tech. Many banking services are being redefined. This includes technologies related to e-commerce, mobile payments, crowdlending, crowdinvesting and asset management. My belief is the result will be a future in which many services are only offered electronically.
Countless finance apps exist which generate added value for clients. These can be used to query master data, receive business news, create portfolios, enter payments, draw up charts, convert currencies, etc. These key challenges that banks and merchants need to know and have solutions ready when embarking on real-time payment processing.

See Arvind Sankaran’s quote:

The extraordinary life of challenging the status quo

I was discussing my first book, “Freedom after the Sharks”, recently with friends and in particular I was challenged on chapter nine, ‘Building the Dream’.

I was asked: “So is it only successful people that take risks?”

All people who achieve greatness take calculated risks and we all have the ability to make choices, but first we need to take a ‘leap of faith’. Entrepreneur’s do think things through and evaluate options. All ideas are researched to gain foresight that is required to make an informed decision. But, generally it comes down to the following three questions:

1. What’s the best-case scenario?
2. What’s the worst-case scenario?
3. What’s the most likely scenario?

As Denis Waitley once said: “Life is inherently risky. There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing.”

Taking risks is not the secret to life, but taking risks does mean we are never at risk of doing nothing.

Too many people ‘play it safe.’ This is the playground of mediocrity. It is where average people live. They colour inside the lines, and always play by the rules. They fear the unknown, and rarely if ever venture outside the boundaries. People who ‘play it safe’ are predictable. Their life is run by rules and routine. Their actions are often dictated by the opinions of others. This is the crowd that fights to keep things the same…

Risk-takers are entrepreneurs, however, they a different and extraordinary breed. They live in the realm of possibility and greatness. They are not afraid to live beyond the boundaries and to colour outside the lines. To them, there is no such thing as failure; only experiments that did not work. Risk-takers are marked by a sense of adventure and passion. They care little for the accolades of the crowd. They are more focused on squeezing everything they can out of every moment of time. They are not afraid to ‘boldly go where no one has gone before.’

Success without risk?

Think about it. Try naming one historical figure that made a difference by playing it safe and being average. The vast majority of successful people are remembered for the difference that they made in their lifetime. And that difference required them to take risks and challenge the status quo.

We are inspired by people who go beyond the norm and push the boundaries of possibility. Mediocrity, on the other hand, does not inspire. Nor does it lead to greatness. Success, however you define it, will elude you unless you are willing to push the limits you have placed on yourself, and that others have placed on you.

The Orville brothers would have never made their historical flight if they had listened to the naysayers. Henry Ford would have never invented the automobile if he had paid attention to his critics. David would have never defeated Goliath if he had allowed his own family to discourage him. The list goes on and on.

Every major breakthrough in history, in business, science, medicine, sports, etc. is the result of an individual who took a risk and refused to play it safe. Successful people understand this. Their innovation is the result of their adventurous spirit. They invent, achieve, surpass, and succeed because they dare to live beyond the realm of normal.

However, many people have mixed feelings about risk, in part because they sense that facing the things we fear can present solutions to our internal dilemmas. Risk is something you want and don’t want, all at the same time. It tempts you with its rewards yet repels you with its uncertainties.

Take high diving, for instance. It’s been called a testament to man’s indulgent pursuit of the insignificant. After all, what did my own high-flying feats prove? That I could withstand two and a half seconds of plummeting hell? So what? The answer lies in my confrontation with my limitations and fears. For me, taking a high dive was more than an act of bravado or a flight of fancy. It was an act of liberation.

Like it or not, taking risks is an inevitable and in-escapable part of life. Whether you’re grappling with the possibility of getting married, starting a business, making a high-stakes investment, or taking some other life or career leap of consequence, one of these days, you’ll wind up confronting your own personal high dive.

Paul Brody, Chief Product Officer of CleverTap sits down with Mark Lack to discuss the right time to take a risk. Is there a right time? When is it?

Risk makes us feel alive. Life without risk is life stuck in a rut. If you feel like your job or life is getting boring and monotonous, then you’re not taking enough risk. The fact is we are built to take risk. We need change and growth in our lives. If you’re not growing, then you’re dying. Realize that nothing in this world truly stays the same.

Risk stretches us and helps us grow. Risk gets us out of our comfort zone to do something different. We learn by experience. Risk teaches us more about ourselves and helps us improve. How much more do we learn through the experiences of trying something big and failing? How much do you learn from taking risk and seeing the outcome?

Don’t let your fear of failure stop you. Fear of failure is often the single biggest obstacle that prevents us from reaching our full potential. We worry about what will happen if/when we fail. Realise that failure is relative. While you may interpret something as a failure, someone else may see it as a valuable learning experience. Often, failure is only failure to the extent you see it that way. What if true failure meant wasting your talent? What if failure was delaying action and missing opportunities because you didn’t take that risk?

Find your true calling. You feel most alive when you’re doing what you were meant to do. We’re not supposed to stay the same, but are charged with growing and developing. Everyone has greatness in them if they challenge themselves enough.

When you are faced with a decision and are wondering if it is worth the risk, it may help to ask yourself these questions:

– Am I risking more than I am able, physically, mentally, or emotionally, at this time?
– Will I be able to take this opportunity again at some other point?
– Are my fears based on real danger, or just on the fear of the unknown?
– What other possible opportunities do I risk by taking/not taking this opportunity?
– Is the risk of doing nothing greater than what I risk by taking this opportunity?

If we think about risks with these questions and process the risk of doing nothing, we are likely to make choices that seem risky, even crazy, to others, but make sense for each of us in our own lives.

The truth is that no matter how much we try to avoid risk and hide from pain, it will still find us, even if it is just in the form of regret. It’s far better to weigh each risk for ourselves and decide which risks are right for us to take than to always let the fear of risks force us to take the risk of doing nothing.

Let me leave you with this amazing quote by Mark Frost:

“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body. But rather, to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming…. “

The pursuit of Happyness….

I have written many blogs on the subject of ‘What is Happiness’, ‘Happiness Explained’ and many more of the science of love and happiness in my latest book, ‘Meaningful Conversations’.

It seems that many people have been pursuing the stock exchange version of happiness with a vengeance, encouraged by the 2006 blockbuster “Pursuit of Happyness”, in which Will Smith starred in this incredibly moving tale inspired by the true story of Chris Gardner, a San Francisco salesman struggling to build a future for himself and his 5-year-old son Christopher (Jaden Smith). When his girlfriend Linda (Thandie Newton) walks out, Chris is left to raise Christopher (Jaden Smith) on his own. Chris’ determination finally pays off when he lands an unpaid internship in a brutally competitive stockbroker-training program, where only one in twenty interns will make the cut. But without a salary, Chris and his son are evicted from their apartment and are forced to sleep on the streets, in homeless shelters and even behind the locked doors of a metro station bathroom. With self-confidence and the love and trust of his son, Chris Gardner rises above his obstacles to become a Wall Street legend.

Do we have to suffer adversity to find happiness, is the thrill is the pain or suffering of the journey or in natural human circumstances?

Thomas Jefferson had meaning when he enshrined the “pursuit of happiness” as a basic right in the Declaration of Independence. However, he failed to explain why, at least not in the original document, nor in his official correspondence. One of the most influential theories doing the rounds is that Jefferson simply plagiarised the English political thinker John Locke, who championed “life, liberty and estate (property).” According to this view, Jefferson’s replacement of the word “estate” with the “pursuit of happiness,” was essentially a play on words. The “pursuit of happiness” was a euphemism for the pursuit of wealth. From this perspective, Jefferson’s vision of happiness was the “rags to riches” version of the good life

Rags to riches…or riches in rags?

A few years back I read that Jefferson was an “Epicurean.” In my mind it reinforced the credibility of the “rags to riches” theory. Over the year’s I had read textbooks and articles echoing the same refrain: Epicurus was an “egoistic hedonist”…i.e someone who championed the pursuit of personal pleasure.

In other words, if he was around now, you wouldn’t see Epicurus on Wall Street. He was not a proponent of the “rags to riches” view of happiness. Far from it. You could call it the “riches within rags” view of happiness. Simply put, if you cultivated close friendships, limited your desires to the essential necessities of life, and rejoiced in the moment, happiness was yours to keep.

On the internet and in bookstores, a thousand business philosophers will provide you with different remedies for human discomfort, which has become a billion-dollar global business. On the daily commute, you will see people reading books on ‘how to change your life by being happy’ from Millennial’s to old age pensioners.

So exactly how can we find out which remedies work? Do we need to consult a counsellor every time we are unhappy?

Recently we have seen a dramatic upsurge in scientific studies on positive psychology and the science of happiness or to put it simply, discovering what makes happy people happy. Fortunately, many of these studies point to specific ways of thinking and acting that can strongly impact our sense of well-being and happiness.

Psychologists Answer The Question: ‘What Is Happiness?’

It is in my belief that happiness comes to you when you feel satisfied and fulfilled. Happiness is a feeling of contentment, that life is just as it should be. Perfect happiness, enlightenment, comes when you have all of your needs satisfied.

While the perfect happiness of enlightenment may be hard to achieve, and even harder to maintain, happiness is not an either or case. There are nearly limitless degrees of happiness between the bliss of enlightenment and the despair of depression. Most of us fall somewhere between, closer to the middle than the edges.

Since happiness is when your life fulfils, and to each and every one of us will identify that we all have different needs, so how can we be happy?

Our individual needs vary based on our genetics, how we were raised, and our life experiences. That complex combination is what makes each of us unique, both in our exact needs, and in every other aspect of what makes us the person we are.
We may each be complex but we are all human and that provides the foundation on which we can discover our essential human needs. Just as we are all born looking human on the outside, we all share common basic needs on the inside. Where we differ is exactly how strongly we feel each of those needs.

A current theory, largely based on new scientific discoveries about how the brain works and on current happiness theories, has identified 9 universal and overlapping human needs that contribute to happiness:
• Wellbeing – mind-body connections, aspects of your physical body that affect your mood, and vice versa
• Environment – external factors like safety, food availability, freedom, weather, beauty, and your home
• Pleasure – temporary experiences such as joy, sex, love, and eating
• Relationships – as a social species, relationships are at the foundation of what it means to be human
• Outlook – how you approach the world through adventurousness, curiosity, and making plans
• Meaning – having a purpose and the wisdom to understand it
• Involvement – to be happy you have to be engaged and actively involved
• Success – confirmation from yourself and others that what you do has value
• Elasticity – how you recover from life’s inevitable negative events

Many have professed that Love is the Answer to happiness. A 75-year study concludes that Love is what ultimately makes us healthy and happy. A good life is built on loving relationships.

For over 75 years, Harvard’s Grant and Glueck study has tracked the physical and emotional well-being of two populations: 456 poor men growing up in Boston from 1939 to 2014 (the Grant Study), and 268 male graduates from Harvard’s classes of 1939-1944 (the Glueck study).

Specifically, the study demonstrates that having someone to rely on helps your nervous system relax, helps your brain stay healthier for longer, and reduces both emotional as well as physical pain.

The data is also very clear that those who feel lonely are more likely to see their physical health decline earlier and die younger.
‘It’s not just the number of friends you have, and it’s not whether or not you’re in a committed relationship,’ says Waldinger. ‘It’s the quality of your close relationships that matters.’

What that means is this: It doesn’t matter whether you have a huge group of friends and go out every weekend or if you are in a ‘perfect’ romantic relationship. It’s the quality of the relationships – how much vulnerability and depth exists within them; how safe you feel sharing with one another; the extent to which you can relax and be seen for who you truly are, and truly see another.

According to George Vaillant, the Harvard psychiatrist who directed the study from 1972 to 2004, there are two foundational elements to this: ‘One is love. The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away.’

The data is clear that, in the end, you could have all the money you’ve ever wanted, a successful career, and be in good physical health, but without loving relationships, you won’t be happy.

The next time you’re scrolling through social media instead of being present at the table with your significant other, or you are considering staying late at the office instead of getting together with your close friend, or you catch yourself working on a Saturday instead of going to have tea with your grandparents, consider making a different choice.

“Relationships are messy and they’re complicated,” acknowledges Waldinger. But he’s adamant in his research-backed assessment:

‘The good life is built with good relationships.’