Gallup and the New York Times have teamed up to find the happiest man in America (according to how his profile fits with the demographics of happiness).

Gallup said that the happiest person would be: male, Asian-American, a religious Jew, self-employed, living in Hawaii, married, has children, receiving a household income of at least $120,000.

Lo and behold, they found someone who fits this description!  In this Times article yesterday, they shared a profile of this gentleman:

Here’s a breakdown of how each of Mr. Wong’s attributes contributes to happiness, with links to some of our previous coverage on these correlations. But remember, as always, correlation is not necessarily causation.

RELIGION: On average, Jews have higher levels of well-being than their counterparts of every other major faith in America. Muslims have the lowest levels of well-being. In between, from happiest to least happy, are Mormons, atheists/agnostics, Roman Catholics, “other non-Christians” and then Protestants. For people of most religions, greater levels of religiosity (like frequent church or synagogue attendance) are associated with higher levels of happiness.

GENDER: Men, on average, report slightly higher levels of well-being, a score of 67 on a scale of 0 to 100, compared to women’s average score of 66.6. This modest gap is mostly because women score much lower on the physical health index, as measured by the presence of illnesses and various other physical ailments like neck pain and low energy.

RACE: Asians have by far the highest levels of well-being, followed by whites, Hispanics, blacks and then everybody who doesn’t fit into those defined categories. Asians beat out their non-Asian counterparts on five out of the six well-being sub-indexes: life evaluation, emotional health, physical health, healthy behaviors and basic access to things like food and shelter. The one category where whites beat them, but just barely, is work environment.

MARITAL STATUS: Married people have far and away the highest happiness levels. The biggest differential between married people and non-married people is in the work environment index. Across the entire index, married people are followed in happiness by singletons; people with domestic partners and people who have been widowed (these two categories have equal levels of well-being); those who are divorced; and finally, people who are married but separated.

CHILDREN: People who have children are slightly happier than people who don’t.

AGE: Seniors — those age 65 and older — rank as the happiest, followed by Americans under 30. The people in the middle —the ones with mortgages, teenagers, car loans and midlife crises — are perhaps understandably the ones who are more miserable.

INCOME: Income tracks very neatly with well-being. People earning under $12,000 annually lead the least happy lives, and the more money they make, generally speaking, the better off they are emotionally and physically. This probably makes sense when you consider what goes into the index, things like good health and access to basic needs like food and shelter. You can’t afford to lead “the good life” if you can’t afford much at all.

GEOGRAPHY: In 2010 Hawaii topped the well-being list, and West Virginia was at the bottom. If you want to zoom in further, you can see well-being rates by Congressional district. California’s 14th district, one of the highest-income districts in the country that also happens to include most of Silicon Valley, ranks at the top. Michigan’s 13th district, an area of high unemployment that covers parts of Detroit and the wealthier Gross Pointe suburbs, is at the very bottom of the barrel.

EMPLOYMENT: Americans who own their own businesses were the happiest on average in 2010, followed by professionals. The least happy are transportation and manufacturing workers.

HEIGHT: Randy Newman was right: Taller people are generally happier.


Came across an interesting visualization of how we make decisions by HopeLab (I believe it was presented at the Wisdom 2.0 conference last week).

What I like about it is the way it visualizes the many filters we place on our understanding of reality.

Wanted to share this fascinating Harvard Business Review article about what our workplaces might learn from the power of ritual and the sense of abundance rituals can provide.

Photo via Flickr's Wade Rockett

A key excerpt of this piece by Peter Bregman, also outlined in the Atlantic Wire piece, “What the Business World Can Learn from Religion”:

Rituals are about paying attention. They’re about stopping for a moment and noticing what you’re about to do, what you’ve just done, or both. They’re about making the most of a particular moment. And that’s something we could use a lot more of in the business world.Imagine if we started each meeting with a recognition of the power of bringing a group of people together to collaborate and an intention to dedicate ourselves, without distraction, to achieving the goals of the meeting. Perhaps even an acknowledgement that each person’s views, goals, and priorities are important and need to be heard. Of course, that would require that every meeting have a clear goal, an agenda, and a purpose. But those are just nice side benefits.

What if every performance review began with a short thought about the importance of clear and open communication? If every time we worked on a spreadsheet someone else created for us, we paused to acknowledge the complexity of the work she did and the attention to detail she brought to it? If at the beginning of the day we paused to honor the work we are about to do and the people with whom we are about to do it?

A poem to feed us on the journey of Allons….

Up past the air we breathe
an intricate web hangs, fragile
as paired wings, its pattern invisible,
mercifully out of reach.

-by Carol Westberg in Slipstream

At sundown this Friday, March 4 the 2011 US National Day of Unplugging will begin (powered by Reboot).

Think slow, think sabbath (Abraham Heschel is my favorite thinker on the Sabbath, with his discussion of sanctified time).

To nudge themselves into changing their behavior, some participants will purchase a sleeping bag for their phone.

Others may use the recently-released Sabbath Manifesto app in order to help them to live in tune with the principles of this effort:

1.  Avoid technology

2.  Connect with loved ones.

3.  Nurture your health

4.  Get outside

5.  Avoid commerce

6.  Light candles

7.  Drink wine

8.  Eat bread

9.  Find silence

10.  Give back

As IFTF continues to explore the balance of slow and fast in our lives at our upcoming Ten-Year Forecast conference, we will continue watching this space.  For more on the Sabbath Manifesto app, see NYT article:  “An App That Reminds You to Unplug.”


Thanks to Jason Tester for the link!  Note:  Also posted on the IFTF blog, FutureNow.

What can an engaged forecasting game do for my company?

This is a question I’ve heard a lot over the past couple of years.  Based on aggregated lessons from the corporate games of which I’ve been a part, below are 4 key insights from engaging with games in a corporate context:

1.  Dipping a toe in gaming = liberating!

Participants reported they appreciated dipping their toe in an online gaming platform.  Being given permission to engage with online scenarios, simulations, and ideation was liberating for some, especially if they were “closet gamers” in their current role and position in the organization.  At IFTF, we forecast that gaming will be a learning methodology and medium for the future, so future leaders need to find ways to grow in this capacity.

2.  Anonymity changes the dynamic

Players appreciated the anonymity that came with an online game–their player name could be “FutureCR8R” or “4sight” rather than “R_Hatch” or “ResearchManager.”  They felt freed to think outside of the hierarchical boundaries of their typical roles.  This was especially important in global companies who were playing the game across cultures.

There was a feeling of fewer limitations and more freedom; regardless of how shy or outgoing a particular person was, or what their role in the organization may be.  Some of the best insights come when a design person puts on an R&D lens, or when a materials expert thinks in terms of consumer insight or external relations.
3.  Lightweight interface lowers barriers

The lightweight interface of the Foresight Engine was essential.  For people who are busy and have lots of demands on their attention bandwidth, participants responded well to having a lightweight demand on their time.  Most of the games were 24 hours in duration, and we asked people to participate in two, 15-20 minute bursts…though many plays for hours on end.

4.  “I am not alone.”

Many participants said they were refreshed and found renewed energy when they played, because it helped them to realize that they are not alone…they are not the only one thinking about a particular topic, picking up on new signals in their local area that hint at a potential disruption, or innovation in the space.  For some, it encouraged their commitment to be change agents because they knew it wasn’t just their individual outlier idea, but rather that others were thinking divergently as well.

Below is a more in-depth description of the Foresight Engine, to give a sense of context:

IFTF’s Foresight Engine drives engaged forecasting. It creates a fast flow of micro-forecasts from hundreds or thousands of participants in just a day or two. It’s all about focused insights and innovation—the discovery of social wisdom and outlier ideas.

At the start of an engagement, forecasters from around the world get a quick video briefing on a future scenario.  Then they play cards: Twitter-length forecasts (140 characters or less) that represent their best thinking. They can start a chain of cards or they can build on cards that others play. It’s just what you’d expect from a Foresight Engine: rapid conversion of potential energy into ideas that can drive decisions.

Participants can track their favorite forecasters, watch the evolution of their ideas as others build on them, and monitor their standing in the leaderboard. They can create tags and follow forecasts that use those tags. In short, they can create their own personalized view on a fast-paced forecasting event.

Fun unlocks creativity – and that’s why game mechanics are also an important part of the Foresight Engine experience. Participants earn forecasting points for ideas that inspire conversation, and bonuses for moving the conversation in unexpected directions. Meanwhile, they unlock personal achievement badges, as they level up their own skills in future forecasting.

How will YOU use the Foresight Engine? You can use it to jump-start strategy, to find the brightest thought-leaders in your organization, to tap a worldwide audience and build a new global perspective. You can use IFTF’s Foresight Engine inside your organization for a strictly private affair or as a public platform for a wide-reaching, even global event. Whichever way you choose to use it, it can deliver all the benefits of engaged forecasting, bringing many voices to bear on your future.


Note, also posted on the IFTF blog, FutureNow.

Michael Chorost‘s new book World Wide Mind:  The Coming Integration of Humanity, Machines, and the Internet is in bookstores as of today.   The 5 minute video below describes his thesis:

The worldwide mind is the combination of humans & the internet acting together in concert.  The combination of the two yields a being which is more powerful than either in isolation.  That, I argue gives you the seed of an intelligence that neither has by its own.

Together with his last book (Rebuilt:  How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human), World Wide Mind shares Michael’s own personal story of living with a cochlear impant and how this positive augmentation adds a computational element to his life that in some ways changes who he is.

For more on Michael, see this IFTF Futurecast we did with him in November 2010, or this New York Times review of his work from yesterday.

Additional key points from Michael’s video:

  • worldwide mind is a coming global intelligence (with intentionality and consciousness of its own)
  • the internet by itself is not going to become intelligent
  • using technology with the body, you can make the connection part of your own internal bodily experience.
  • there is a new way to think about how technology & human relationships can be brought together.  Right now people think of these domains as mutually exclusive.  Chorost thinks there is a way to put these togehter with physical integration of humans and machines (as exemplified by his own personal experience of having a cochlear implant)
  • technology can be used to create more humane connections between people


Note:  Also posted on the IFTF blog, FutureNow