by Jessica Hutchinson
5:38 pm – Who doesn’t want to be happy? Tal Ben-Shahar is now on stage in his suit and tie to tell us how to get closer to being worry-free and happy.
Simply put, Ben-Shahar tells us that focusing on one’s strengths is of the utmost importance. This is the focus of positive psychology.
Positive psychology is not positive thinking it’s about looking at both the problems and deficiencies, as well as (and more importantly) what is working – our strengths and positive goals.
In a group of children, psychologists found that, regardless of being in unfavorable circumstances, certain traits indicated happier individuals, including setting future goals, not ignoring the present or the future, having an optimistic outlook, having role models and being physically active. The good news is that all the traits listed above can be taught.
Did you know that exercising three times per week for 30 minutes each time has the same positive effect as psychiatric drugs, while increasing performance and thinking?
At one point in his presentation, Ben-Shahar projected a messy image of various, random geometric shapes and asked the audience to count them – attendees shouted out numbers ranging from five to infinite. Ben-Shahar admitted he doesn’t know the answer himself, but asked (of the projected images) what was the time on the clock, how many children were sitting in the bus, and what was the dominant color of the left-most geo shape. His point – we tend to only see a small part of reality. It’s OK as long as we recognize it and realize we do this often, such as in our relationships. We often focus on what doesn’t work instead of what does – this can lead to more problems than good.
On an individual level, it is important to recognize, each day, what we are grateful for and what we have accomplished in a given day. At weekly family dinners with his wife, mother and children, Ben-Shahar and his family list off what they have accomplished during the week, including what was fun and rewarding. This experience, he says, brings the family closer together, gives them something to talk about and makes them more aware of their lives and circumstances.
Asking the right questions first, rather than focusing on finding the right answers is key to gaining a clearer understanding of the world around us.
4:40 pm – Stacey Snider, Steven Spielberg’s right-hand woman and business partner is now on stage being interviewed by James Bennet (editor-in-chief, The Atlantic). Born in Philly, mother of two, feminist and chairman / CEO of DreamWorks Studios, Snider is extremely laid back and down to earth.
She opens by talking about the movie Lincoln, which will be released to the public on November 16th. The movie has an amazing cast, including Daniel Day Lewis, who plays the part of Abe.
“This film focuses on leadership and is a modern look at the messy process of democracy. There are 140 speaking parts and every performance is impeccable. Lincoln promises a unique, quality and untold part of history.” says Snider.
DreamWorks makes only four to six movies per year – Snider is responsible for ensuring these movies promise enough box office appeal so they can pay the rent while holding up the DreamWorks’ brand and meeting viewer expectations.
“You sound like my dad!” Says Snider when asked by Bennet what being a studio executive entails. She serves as a creative financier supervising a broad range of films. She makes sure the studio has a slate of movies at all times, plans and set budgets and supervises the packaging of movies. She’s not on site all that much, or as much as one would think, but she does visit the set from time to time.
“Creating movies is a balance between art and commerce – balancing the size of the audience with cost of movie,” says Snider.
Stacey has seen the business change vastly from when she began. It is now more hits-driven and more has to be done to draw people’s attention.
Movies used to be a major part of the social landscape, but that’s not the case now – young people are not habituated to go to movies like they used to since there are other ways to get in touch with friends.
While Snider loves all the movies she has created over the years. She has each one of her scripts bound and signed. She appreciates movies that change the conversation and have something to say, such as the film Philadelphia. Snider played a major part in producing this movie and convinced her colleagues it was an extremely important film that needed to be made.
03:55 pm – next up on the agenda is: A House Divided: Predicting 2012’s Races in Congress and the White House – Moderated by Ron Brownstein with the following renowned panelists: James Fallows (national correspondent, The Atlantic), James Fowler (professor of medical genetics and political science, UC San Diego), Samuel Poplin (professor of political science, UC San Diego), Steve Schmidt (vice-chairman of public affairs, Edelman) and Dan Yankelovich (public opinion analyst and pollster)
While this is not a heated debate, it is an in-depth one that focuses on panelists’ opinions of the presidential candidates, their recent debates and the future of the country.
One of the main topics was the minority vote – some of the panelists feel more must be done to win the minority vote – this is the last election where republicans can rely heavily on the white, male vote. More and more minorities are voting – this number will continue to grow by the next election. The Republican Party tends to convey the attitude that minorities are taking over the country – this attitude could be detrimental to their campaign.
While it is going to be a close presidential race, it is one that could be driven by the minority vote.
03:28 pm – Ron Brownstein, the political director of the National Journal, is now interviewing Steve Schmidt (political strategist) about the recent political debate . . .
Structurally, the race is close (Obama still has an advantage) and Romney has made some mistakes, but if Romney continues to present himself well from this point forward, and continues pointing out Obama’s deficiencies along the way, he still has a chance to win the election.
One of the detriments of the Republican Party is the fact that they are branded by issues such as contraception. If you brand yourself one way or another on controversial issues, you run a huge risk of alienating a big portion of the population, such as educated, white women.
“If Romney loses the election, there will be the beginnings of a proper civil war within the Republican Party,” says Schmidt.
03:24 pm – “Necessity is the mother of innovation . . . The next few days are all about a map of the future – the opportunities we see here (during the conference) will be a part of our future” – Chris Wolfe (managing director and CIO of The Private Banking and Investment Group at Merrill Lynch)
03:19 pm – “This evening, we have the dessert before main course of next few days in these three areas of American obsession: politics and the election, the entertainment industry and happiness,” says Elizabeth Baker Keffer in her opening remarks.
03:11 pm – I’m here at the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla, CA, at the Atlantic Meets the Pacific Conference, which is about to begin in a few minutes . . . The audience is filling up quickly as we get ready for the introductory remarks by Hugh M. Davies (CEO of the museum), Elizabeth Baker Keffer (vice president of The Atlantic)and Chris Wolfe (managing director and CIO of The Private Banking and Investment Group at Merrill Lynch) Stay tuned for live updates on speakers and event specifics . . .