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The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work Hardcover – September 14, 2010
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
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I would have purchased this book if text-to-speech were enabled.
One last note: what I dislike most about this book is the disservice done to the real sources of the most artistic, inventive, genius revolutionaries of history. The greatest works of music, art and literature were not born from casual contentment and perfunctory joy; and their creators were not the good little producers that this book espouses for. Degenerate anger, hopeless depression, suffering and sadness awaken the inspiration for revolution and change. I'm not saying that everyone should want to be depressed, but more so just that its o.k. if we are; being dissatisfied with this artificial global culture is natural and trying to be happy about it isn't going to make it or us better.
How could this guy be a Harvard professor? Well, a quick search of the internet tells us that Shawn is not and never was a harvard professor, and has no current affiliation to harvard at all. In fact, he seems to use every trick he can to get us to think he's a famous and popular professor without ever quite claiming that he is (I'm guessing Harvard's lawyers would have a field day with him otherwise, or maybe they already have). He's treading a very careful and deceptive line to inflate his qualifications far beyond the reality. He *was* once a student at Harvard (it looks like he got a master's degree in divinity -- not a science, the last time I checked). Even the lowliest faculty job at a mediocre university (much less Harvard) would require a PhD, which Shawn does not have. Shawn refers obliquely in his book to his decade of "research at harvard" but, as I noted above, if you search Google Scholar, you will see he has never published any credible scientific research at all. Zero. Nothing. It is unclear whether he has ever had any scientific training of any kind, or if his "research" involved anything other than sitting around in his dorm room. He says he is a "harvard-trained researcher" but a master's in divinity isn't scientific training and, again, there is no record of his participation in any actual research and no mention of the actual scientists he worked with. He certainly hasn't done any credible scientific research proving that "happiness leads to success." What he does appear to have done, and I say this as a petty, jealous graduate student scraping by on a tiny stipend, is make a lot of money. Selling himself as a harvard scientist (which he is not), he appears to charge huge speaking fees (as in, more for one speech than I make in a year) to hear about his "research." That sounds to me like someone chasing success, not happiness. I am hugely sympathetic to the ideas this book contains, but given how much the author is distorting his own qualifications for personal gain I worry that he is distorting the science as well.
UPDATE in response to comments:
I agree completely. If he had just let the content speak for itself, I would have no complaints. Plenty of people without special qualifications write decent books. The book is easy to read, easy to understand, and has useful points even if I don't find much of it to be truly new. Based on the average review here on Amazon, people seem to feel like they are getting value out of it. That's great.
With the way he harps on harvard over and over, and implies that he is a famous and popular professor at harvard who has done legitimate scientific research, however, it just feels slimy to me and like he is trying to fool his readers. It sounds like you have confirmation from connections at harvard that he is inflating his qualifications. Very interesting.
I can assure you that I have read the book quite carefully. If I ignore the author's self-inflation, it's largely a decent book. If you're asking me to evaluate the content of the book, I will admit that I do find much of Happiness Advantage to be fairly derivative once I scratch below the surface. That's actually why I bothered to look into Mr. Achor's qualifications in the first place. I was expecting a harvard professor to be talking about his cool original research that I wouldn't have heard about elsewhere, but then I read through the whole book and realized that even though he kept referring to his research he never actually presented ANY data from his own original research. That seemed fishy to me, and so I bothered to look into who this guy was, and my review is the result.
The overall narrative is novel -- happiness is the key to success (but success doesn't make you happy). I don't know enough to determine if he's correct, but it's an interesting idea. But once you get to the supporting details, it's largely (though certainly not entirely) a rehash of other people's ideas. No other book talks about the "Zorro Circle," but plenty of books talk about starting daunting tasks with small doable steps (the same thing but without the fancy name). Plenty of books talk about the power of habits in determining our behavior or the value of social relationships for happiness. Mr. Achor even talks in the book about reading other books to get content for his book. But whether the ideas are derivative doesn't matter if the ideas are new to you. The content of lots of books are derivative and people still read them and get value from them. Heck, there is value is hearing the same idea a bunch of times because maybe, eventually, it will really sink in. In any event, the author does a good job communicating these ideas, and his overarching narrative is more original. If it weren't for the dishonesty, I'd probably give the content of the book 3 stars. It's not terribly original, but it's well-written, practical, and a quick, easy read.
I just think he's being dishonest about his qualifications and the basis for his ideas in order to sell more books and charge higher speaking fees. It rubs me the wrong way and I think his readers are getting tricked, as are the companies that are paying big money to hear him speak about his "research." What's sad is that it's unnecessary and I think the deception will catch up with him eventually. For better or worse, there are plenty of authors who write bestsellers without any real qualifications, and they don't feel the need to lie about it.
If you can find any actual evidence that Mr. Achor (a) has a PhD (b) has ever been the actual instructor for a class at Harvard -- i.e., the one actually teaching the class, not just a teaching assistant (c) conducted ANY peer-reviewed scientific research that is cited in Happiness Advantage or (d) was ever a Professor at Harvard, I will stand corrected. Mr. Achor may have done a good job in making you think that some or all of these things are true, but if you dig a little deeper I think you will find that they are all false.
@MM of FS
I appreciate your weighing in. I think your comments will help us all be clearer about Shawn's credentials are and are not. As I stated in my original review, Shawn was a harvard student -- an undergraduate student and then a master's student in divinity. And, as is clear in reading his book and on the internet but I should have made clearer in my review - he was a teaching fellow for a psychology class at harvard. That's all fine so far, and true as far as I know; I have no reason to doubt it. Shawn was clearly at Harvard - he isn't making EVERYTHING up. Check.
However, those things aren't what I find dishonest about how Shawn represents his credentials and I think he has managed to pull the wool over your eyes as well. Reading Shawn's book it sounds like he is a harvard professor who conducted legitimate scientific research about happiness and performance.
Shawn was NOT the instructor/professor for the positive psychology course (it was Tal Ben-Shahar -- see his interview on the Daily Show about it, for example).
I see no record that Shawn has ever been the instructor for any class at harvard. He was a teaching fellow (what harvard calls their teaching assistants), but that's not remotely the same thing. Professors at a place like Harvard/Yale/Stanford/etc are world-class leaders in their fields, whereas teaching assistants are usually graduate students in the subject (sometimes someone who graduated college just a year earlier).
Shawn was NEVER a professor at harvard
Shawn did NOT receive a PhD from harvard or anywhere else -- the minimum requirement for being an actual professor and, usually (but not always), for conducting original scientific research.
I can find no record of any actual scientific training Shawn received. I don't know what his undergraduate degree was in, but a master's degree in divinity is not scientific training.
Shawn did NOT conduct ANY peer-reviewed research whatsoever contained in the book The Happiness Advantage. He talks over and over and over again all about his "research" but I can find no record of any peer-reviewed research he conducted anywhere in the book. If you can find citations for peer-reviewed research Shawn led that is contained in the book The Happiness Advantage, please tell us all the page numbers where we can dig into the details of his alleged scientific research. As far as I can tell, there are ZERO. Heck, I'd be happy to see some graphs of actual data he collected, even if they aren't peer reviewed.
So, in short, I'm not saying Shawn is completely lying about his connection to Harvard. But I think he is taking tiny morsels of truth (undergrad student and divinity master's student at harvard, teaching assistant) and grossly exaggerating them to mislead his readers to think he is/was a professor at harvard, that he is a legitimate and trained scientist, and that he performed legitimate scientific research to produce the book The Happiness Advantage. He seems to do everything he can to conceal these facts from the reader and to inflate his own importance and qualifications. It's dishonest and I think readers deserve to know the facts.
Lots of anecdotes about the author lecturing companies about how happiness changes you for the better. Lots of studies saying happiness makes you more efficient, more effective, more productive, more of a team player, more successful. It's like the difference between a marketing piece and an owner's manual. This is a marketing piece. Lots of verbiage dedicated to how great happiness is and how much it will help you to succeed, complete with studies, research, anecdotes and so forth.
I got to a certain point the in the book where it finally occurred to me. The author has little or nothing to say about what actually to do to achieve these outcomes. This book is all about promotion, more precisely promoting the author's point of view.
On the positive side, the research is right on the money, these principles are correct. But if you were hoping to figure out how to apply them in your life from reading this book, sorry, look somewhere else.
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I am just stunned at how incredible poorly written this book is. Eg, there is no useful content for the first 1 hour of the audiobook.Read more