Happiness is a Seat at The Atlantic Meets the Pacific

by Don Sevrens

Happiness for Facebook VP of Product Chris Cox, an extrovert who plays in a reggae band, is deepening Facebook’s role in the lives of its users while steering clear of privacy concerns.
For Stacey Snider, CEO of DreamWorks Studios, happiness is releasing Academy Award winning films like “The Help.” And happiness for UC San Diego professor Vilayanur Ramachandran, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, is unlocking the mysteries that cause happiness.
Case in point: For a Yale Law School graduate, clerking for a Supreme Court justice should have been a rapturous chapter in her career. Not so for Gretchen Rubin. In a moment of self-realization, she discovered that what she wanted to do when she grew up, what would truly make her happy, was to write.

Gretch Rubin, author of the “Happiness Project”

Rubin made a career shift, eventually sharing with others how to be happy in—the New York Times bestseller “The Happiness Project,” and in a daily blog with the same name.
Cox, Snider, Ramachandran and Rubin are all scheduled as speakers for a reprise of last fall’s acclaimed three-day conversation series co-hosted by UC San Diego Extension and The Atlantic magazine. Call it Atlantic Returns to the Pacific. From October 7–9, 2012 the editors of the 155-year-old magazine will converse with newsmakers in such fields as science, medicine, energy development and human interaction.
Early confirmations for this fall’s series include Cox, the 29-year-old vice president of product at Facebook. Cox has worked at the social media company since 2005 and serves as chief of staff to CEO Mark Zuckerberg on product development. Facebook is expected to begin public trading of its stock this year, a move that will instantly create 900 millionaires among the company’s rank and file.
Snider is a partner of DreamWorks Studios, along with Steven Spielberg , as well as its Co-Chairman and CEO w here s he oversees creative and financial aspects of all film development and production in addition to the company’s business strategy. Formed in 2009, Snider and Spielberg lead the motion picture company in partnership with The Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group.
Sir Robert Swan has signaled his willingness to appear. An Arctic explorer and environmental advocate, Swan is the first person to walk both poles. Among others due to appear at the multiple venue forum exploring revolutionary advances are Ben Battray, founder of the online advocacy platform change.org, and Jessica Jackley, founder of the microlending platform Kiva and the entrepreneur networking site Profounder.
Ramachandran has published over 180 papers in scientific journals (including five invited review articles in Scientific American). He has been profiled in the New Yorker Magazine and appeared on the “Charlie Rose Show.” His recent book, The Tell Tale Brain, was on the New York Times bestseller list. TIME magazine named him on their list of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Rubin, who is now living in New York City with her husband and two young daughters, has written bestsellers about JFK, Winston Churchill and one entitled “Power Money Fame Sex.” But it’s The Happiness Project, the volume with the subtitle “Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun” that best defines what she has to share with us.
It’s a myth, Rubin writes in her daily blog, that nothing changes a person’s happiness level much. She says people do not have a happiness set-point, they do not necessarily snap back quickly from a traumatic change to their usual happiness level. “Major life events can have strong, lasting effects on people’s happiness. For example, although people adapt quickly to marriage, it takes much longer for widows to adapt to widowhood. Losing a job, getting divorced—these kinds of events make a significant lasting impact on happiness.”
Other speakers will be announced in coming months. Last year’s series included such luminaries as physician and guru Deepak Chopra, Caltech physicist Leonard Mlodinow, video game inventor Will Wright, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk and Twitter co-founder Evan Williams.
Registration information for The Atlantic Meets the Pacific is available at atlanticmeetspacific.com.

Don Sevrens was a longtime editor and editorial writer at U-T San Diego.

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