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Called to Coach
Dr. Arthur Brooks on Finding and Lifting People to Happiness
Called to Coach

Dr. Arthur Brooks on Finding and Lifting People to Happiness

Webcast Details

  • How can an understanding of intelligence and what makes people happy energize your coaching?
  • What is the difference between fluid and crystallized intelligence, and how do they relate to strengths?
  • What are the Big 4 components of happiness, and what can you to do maximize them?

Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series -- Season 10, Episode 15.

Below are audio and video plus a transcript of the conversation, including time stamps.

Happiness is something we all want, but it often proves elusive. Dr. Arthur Brooks, Gallup Senior Scientist, has studied human happiness and now has authored a book on happiness, From Strength to Strength. In this Called to Coach webcast, Arthur shares what he has distilled from thousands of happiness studies that you can apply as a coach and in your own life -- including happiness' genetic and circumstantial components, and the Big 4 elements that are "permanent and completely in your control." Join us for an insightful discussion of happiness.

From Strength to Strength is a happiness 401(k) plan based on the changing strengths that naturally occur in people's lives.

Arthur Brooks, 7:11

That feeling of achievement, of merit, of your skills meeting your passions, your strengths meeting your passions -- that is really critical. And the second part of being happy in your work is you got to serve others.

Arthur Brooks, 22:39

Weaknesses are the unique part of your personality where you can truly connect with other people.

Arthur Brooks, 25:46

Jim Collison 0:00
I am Jim Collison, and this is Gallup's Called to Coach, recorded on April 18, 2022.

Meet Our Guest on This Episode

Jim Collison 0:19
Called to Coach is a resource for those who want to help others discover and use their strengths. We have Gallup experts and independent strengths coaches share tactics, insights and strategies to help coaches maximize the talent of individuals, teams and organizations around the world. If you're listening live on our live page -- -- there's a link right above me there; it'll take you to our YouTube page. You can join us in chat; we'll be taking your questions live. If you have questions after the fact, you can always send us an email: Don't forget to subscribe on your favorite podcast app or right there on YouTube so you never miss an episode. My guest today is Dr. Arthur C. Brooks. Dr. Brooks is a Social Scientist and a Gallup Senior Scientist as well who studies human happiness. He is the William Henry Bloomberg Professor of the Practice of Public Leadership -- that is a mouthful -- at Harvard Kennedy School and Professor of Management Practice at the Harvard Business School. Now that we got all that out of the way, also the bestselling author of 12 books and an acclaimed public speaker and creator of the popular "How to Build a Life" column for The Atlantic and now the bestselling book, From Strength to Strength. Arthur, welcome to Called to Coach!

Arthur Brooks 1:24
Hey, Jim, how are you? Nice to see you!

Jim Collison 1:26
Great to have you here. And my cohost for the interview today is Austin Suellentrop. Austin is the CliftonStrengths Portfolio Manager here at Gallup. And Austin, always great to have you on Called to Coach. Welcome back!

Austin Suellentrop 1:36
Absolutely. It's a pleasure to be here. I am really looking forward to this. It's a, it's a special treat, I know, for the two of us, Jim to have, have Arthur here with us. So Arthur, thank you again for taking the time to join us.

Arthur Brooks 1:47
Thanks, Austin. It's great to be with you. Great to be talking to both of you about one of my favorite subjects, which is CliftonStrengths.

Jim Collison 1:52
Yeah, we're excited about it as well, Arthur, before we get started, I just read your bio, but what else should we know about you? And maybe sneak in your Top 5 there as well?

Arthur Brooks 2:02
Yeah, for sure. No, I mean, everybody's got a crazy biography. Mine, mine actually didn't start with what you just ended with, which was this 75-word title at Harvard University. You know, lots of words, it makes it really important -- that's the, that's the key thing to keep in mind. Before I was doing this, I was the President of a think tank in Washington, D.C., called the American Enterprise Institute of Public Policy Think Tank. And then I started off my career, actually, as a professional classical musician. So I left college relatively inauspiciously, at the age of 19. So if any of, any of the our, you know, fellow coaches have any kids that are struggling in college, there's hope is all I can say because, I mean, it did take 10 years. My parents called it my "gap decade." And I wound up, you know, finishing college in my late 20s, leaving classical music at 31, going to graduate school, getting my Ph.D. and becoming a social scientist.

Arthur Brooks 2:53
So it's been a long and winding road looking for adventures, looking for intellectual adventures, which is fantastic. I'm so interested in new ideas and curiosity about new things, which actually is going to explain my, my big 5, my 5 CliftonStrengths, which are, in order, No. 1 Futuristic, you know, a high level of what we sort of scientists call "prospection," which is thinking about the future -- a clearer focus on how things can get better. I'm thinking all the time, What can we do? What can we do that's new? No. 2 is Ideation, which is an emphasis on ideas and synthetic thinking -- synthetic, meaning you synthesize different ideas and put them into one major idea. The third is Strategic, which is a confidence in the ability to solve problems, always thinking about, you know, what the solutions to problems might be. No. 4 is Woo, which is, you know, given the fact that I'm at the 96th percentile in extroversion, something I'm not, I don't, not, I'm not going to flatter myself about that. That's actually not something to brag about at all.

Arthur Brooks 3:52
But that high extroversion, if you, if you try to use it in the service of other people, can be a good thing. It's what I try to do. It's what I pray that I'll be able to do every day, and a desire to win people over to good ideas, to persuade them to do things that can lift people up and bring people together. And finally, No. 5 is Input, collecting information and ideas to synthesize and use in all sorts of new ways. So Futuristic, Ideation, Strategic, Woo and Input. That sounds an awful lot like a guy who takes his career down to the studs completely every 10 years, which is what I've done.

The Story Behind From Strength to Strength

Austin Suellentrop 4:21
I love it. I love it, Arthur. That's wonderful. And, and I think anybody who has paid attention for the last 90 seconds as you, as you started talking, the "Wooness," as we talk about it, this energy, the thing I've always admired -- I've seen, I've been able to see you present and speak several times. And a passion comes through when you speak that is just undeniable. And so I'm curious, as we get started, what about maybe your life's work, your study, your work led you to write the book you just wrote -- From Strength to Strength? What was it that got you excited enough to write this book?

Arthur Brooks 4:57
Yeah. So the book From Strength to Strength, it sounds like it's actually based on CliftonStrengths. I mean, From Strength to Strength. it's actually based on the 80, on the 84th Psalm, where an ancient Jewish blessing is that, "May you go from strength to strength" from the psalm -- mehayil el-hayil in Hebrew. And it's a very, it's a really important thing that you be able to go from one strength to the next strength in your life, and there's nothing that would be more appropriate for CliftonStrengths than that blessing, as a matter of fact, I mean, as far as I'm concerned, every, every CliftonStrengths coach should know, "May you go from strength to strength," because in point of fact, your strengths change over the course of your life -- not dramatically, in the case of some psychometric things like we're doing in this context. But in many other ways, you can actually have strengths that increase and decrease over the course of your life.

Arthur Brooks 5:42
And that's what I was really interested in. I was noticing, I've been noticing over the past 10 years, the trajectory of strivers. And so I've worked a lot with really high-performing individuals, people who are just trying to absolutely make the most of their lives. And one of the things that I found is that they, they tend toward a kind of a curse, which is a struggle when their early strengths start to wane. Now, there's a reason for this. This is called, the rise and fall of fluid intelligence. Fluid intelligence is your, your indefatigable ability to focus, to solve problems, to, to crack the case -- on your own, largely. And that gets, with practice with your 10,000 hours, that gets better and better over your, in your 20s and 30s. It tends to peak around the age of 40 and starts to decline. And that's hugely frustrating and even scary to a lot of people.

Arthur Brooks 6:30
But the good news, there's a second strength curve that comes in behind it called your crystallized intelligence. That's your wisdom, your ability to synthesize ideas, to take other people's ideas and say, Here's what they need. You may not be able to, to answer questions faster than anybody else. But you'll be able to say which are the right questions to answer. You're a better teacher, you're a better coach. So what you're going to find, my beloved Clifton, you know, Gallup colleagues, the older you get as a CliftonStrengths coach, the better you should get because of your crystallized intelligence. This is a book about how to develop those things, about what gets in the way of those things and how to actually be happier. For all intents and purposes, the last book that I wrote, From Strength to Strength, is a happiness 401(k) plan based on the changing strengths that naturally occur in people's lives.

What to Do When You're a Striver, Addicted to Success

Austin Suellentrop 7:19
Wow. I love that -- this idea of being able to leverage what we know is changing in people and that there is a, there's a structure to understand to it. It's not just a, not just an experiential thing; there's a structure and sort of base to it. You talked about strivers and the struggle that strivers have. You describe it sometimes as them, almost like, like they're addicted to success. Can you talk a little bit about what, what that looks like and maybe how to help people deal with that?

Arthur Brooks 7:50
So I've looked a lot, I mean, I teach a class at the Harvard Business School called "Leadership and Happiness." And it's the most oversubscribed class at HBS, because you know, of course, happiness -- free candy, kids! Everybody wants it. And so I have two sections of 90, and 400 on the waiting list. And, and what I talk about in this class is not just the, the way to get happier but the barriers to happiness that people who are highly motivated, hardworking people naturally get. Now I'm talking about the clientele for CliftonStrengths here. I mean, there's very few people who voluntarily -- I mean, there's some people who say, their company says, "You got to take this," and they're like, "OK, whatever." But, but most people who are doing CliftonStrengths on their own, these are strivers. These are people who want to make a lot with their lives, whether they go to Harvard or whether they go to any other university or any other school, they want to take a big bite out of their lives.

Arthur Brooks 8:37
And this is a wonderful population. But we have to understand the pathologies of this population as well, which is really critical to point out that not everything is perfect. Now I've studied, over the course of my career as a social scientist, a lot of the neuroscience of addiction. Addiction is an incredibly interesting behavioral phenomenon because what it all, it is, behind it all is a neuromodulator called dopamine. Now, everybody listening to us and watching us right now knows what dopamine is. It's a neural modulator. It's actually produced by the human brain. It's a neurochemical of desire and anticipation of reward. It's not a pleasure hormone; it's a desire and anticipation hormone. It lets you focus on a goal, and strivers have that big time. This is one of the reasons that strivers have to be more careful about smoking, more careful about drinking, more careful about gambling, more careful about all of the addictive things. You will find that when you talk to strivers, they're more likely to have an addiction in their past, and they have to be careful about an addiction in their future. Because these are, we are fellow strivers. We are dopamine monkeys. We love the anticipation neuromodulator -- it just, we're just really, really good at making it is the bottom line. OK, that's one of the pathologies of being a striver.

Arthur Brooks 9:49
Now here's the interesting thing: If you're addicted to drugs and alcohol, the world is like, "Oh man, that's really bad." It's either a character failing or it's a medical problem, but nobody's like, "Good job! Good job!" You know, you drank a, you know, a liter of whiskey today. Good job, brother. No, that, everybody's like, "That's terrible! You have to solve that problem." But there are addictions that use the same neuromodulator pathways that people congratulate you for. Case in point: workaholism. You work 14-, 15-hour days, people are like, "Yeah, you're super focused, man. You're, oh, that's your strength. Your strength is your indefatigability. It's your ability to go on and on and on." It's like, yeah, ask her husband. Her husband's alone at home feeling lonely. That's not a strength; that's a bad thing. You're choosing your 14th hour of work over your first hour with your kids? Don't do that! That's as bad as drinking too much, because it's gonna break up your family. It's going to leave people lonely. It's going to be a problem. It is a pathology.

Arthur Brooks 10:44
Now behind workaholism, which strivers have in abundance, there's a deeper addiction, which is usually a success addiction. Early on, a lot of people who are strivers, they grew up in families that treated them as the special one, you know, the kind of objectified the kid a little bit. You know, you're, you get the A's, you get the, you get the perfect scores. You're such a hard worker. You're so smart. And they start to objectify themselves. And as they go through life, they're really afraid of failing, typically. They're really obsessed with, with succeeding, which is the other side of a fear of failure, typically. And they will work and work and work because they want to get, the dopamine is driving them to get the cookie of success. The A's, the jobs, the pay raises, the promotions, again and again and again -- hit the lever and get the cookie, and that can just ruin their lives. So I, one of the things that I do when I'm talking to executives, which I'm doing all the time, you know, they want to know how to get, I'm a specialist in happiness. And so they say, "I'm not happy." The first thing I'm going to look at is their pathology and the psychodynamics of their relationship to success.

Austin Suellentrop 11:47
Wow. I love -- that's, that's really, like, I'm sitting here soaking in everything you just said and thinking about my own career path, my own, my own habits, my own sort of approach to things. Thank you. Great, great, great breakdown with that. Jim, any, anything you want to jump in here with?

Happiness Components: Genetic and Circumstantial, the Big 4

Jim Collison 12:01
Yeah, Arthur, how, so as you think about a young executive, let's, let's look at this from both a young and an older executive. What kind of advice do you give? So you've got this hard-charging, driving, you know, late 20s, early 30s, executive who's trying to get there to get those kinds of things done, versus a 50-, a 50- or 60-year-old executive doing it. What kind of advice can you give, for our coaches listening, how do you, how do you help them find that balance? Because --

Arthur Brooks 12:30
Yeah, so the key thing is to think of your happiness like a portfolio. So the happiness science is actually is -- I mean, it's fascinating. It's super interesting. It's the reason I'm obsessed with it and doing it. And half of your happiness is genetic. It is -- your baseline happiness levels, and we find this from identical twin studies who were separated at birth and adopted into separate families. They're carbon copies of each other, and you give them personality tests at 40, and you find that between 40% and 80% of almost every personality characteristic is genetic -- and 50% of the happiness, which is interesting. So, you know, literally, your mother did make you unhappy -- is what, basically what I'm telling you. The other half -- now that's not dispositive, by the way; that's just your, your genetic proclivity. There's also switches. And to explain that, I'll explain it this way, you know, that 60% of your tendency toward alcohol abuse is also genetic. But I have this behavioral, this technology that you can control that can turn that to 0. It's this crazy new technology called "Don't drink," right.

Arthur Brooks 13:30
And so, and so the, and my point is you've got genetic proclivities, and you've got behavioral switches. So you need to know your genetics as much as you can, so that you can know what, what behavioral switches. And this is one of the reasons you get a coach is because you want to change your behavior. The second half -- so the first half is genetic. The second half is half circumstantial -- so 25% of your happiness is circumstantial, the things that are happening around you, you know, good and bad: You got the promotion, you got the raise, you got married, you bought a new car, you got fired, you went bankrupt, whatever it happens to be, up and down -- those things don't last. Everybody thinks that those things are gonna last; disregard those things to the extent that you can, because they're very, very temporary. There's a lot of science behind that.

Arthur Brooks 14:11
But the last 25% is permanent and completely in your control. Those are your happiness habits. They give you better circumstances, and they're genetic switches as well, but they directly control 25%. And there are 4 things -- you can boil the ocean of 10,000 studies and find a bunch of little trivial things, like you get happier if you do cardio or resistance training, who cares? Those are little. The Big 4 are faith, family, friendship and work. Those are the Big 4. When I say faith, I don't mean my faith. I'm a Roman Catholic -- it's the most important thing in my life, don't get me wrong. But the data say that you need a transcendental walk, whether it's a religion or nonreligious spirituality, a meditation practice, or maybe it's just studying the Stoic philosophers. Even if you're an atheist, you need something that will zoom you out from your day-to-day experience.

Arthur Brooks 15:00
Second is your family life, the ties that bind that don't break that you don't choose -- God knows you wouldn't choose, in many cases -- your friendships, and this is the key thing for strivers. Lots of strivers say, "I've got tons of people around me. I got lots of friends, but I'm lonely." That's because they're deal friends, not real friends, which we can, we can dig into in a minute if you want. But the last but not least is your work. And the work is what all the strivers overindex on. When I'm talking to a, one of my Harvard Business School students is going at it, first thing I tell them in the class, as a matter of fact, is, Here's the mistake that you're going to make. You have a portfolio of 4 things: faith family, friends and work. You're going to overindex on work and you're gonna underindex on the first three. That's the bottom line.

Arthur Brooks 15:41
So when I'm working with a young executive, a young striver, I'm like, "Don't tell me about work. I know your work is going great -- you're killing it, you don't have to, you wouldn't be in a, in, doing CliftonStrengths If you weren't killing it. Tell me about your faith life. Tell me about your family life. Tell me about your friendships. And I'll tell you how to make a strategy that's going to carry you through to the rest of your life. And if you don't do it, it's like, it's like putting your whole 401(k) in Greek bonds." You know, it's like, OK, it might work. But I don't recommend it.

Coaching Workers Who Change Vocations

Austin Suellentrop 16:13
That's, that's wonderful. I, we, as a coaching community, we love, we love frameworks and the ability to take happiness and put it into those, those four, the Big 4 you described: faith, family, friendship and work -- that's actionable for us, right, as coaches, to be able to, to structure a conversation or structure questions that you would ask. Absolutely, we appreciate that. When, when you sort of go through your exploration, thinking about you know, your career and how you talked about getting sort of a late start after a 10-year gap decade, as you described, what, what have been some of those, maybe those Aha! moments or those things you've, experiences you've had that have helped sort of helped provide clarity around how, how to adjust maybe your portfolio of happiness? Any sort of experiences or things you could share with us that maybe help give some, some examples that we can use in conversations with others?

Arthur Brooks 17:09
Yeah, more and more, coaches are dealing with people who are career changers. And this is something that if you were doing, I mean, to begin with, you wouldn't be able to make a living as a career coach 100 years ago, because everybody would like go work at the post office and stay there till retirement. I mean, that was how careers worked. Even my dad, who was an academic just like me, and my grandfather was also an academic, but my dad, you know, he went to a college and he, he became a professor, and then he retired from that job decades and decades and decades later is kind of how it works. So, you know, I don't exactly need a career coach to tell me to, "Well, sign your contract for another year." That doesn't help understand my dad's strengths under the circumstances unless he's really trying to change the nature of his job, which actually is really possible and important.

Arthur Brooks 17:49
But these days, we need to be able to help people move from career to career to job to job to vocation to vocation. And that requires this incredible discernment of strength, some of which, between fluid and crystallized intelligence, is dynamic and changing over the course of somebody's career. Some of it is static. I was Futuristic, early on, I'm going to be Futuristic. I'm gonna be lying on my deathbed talking about 1,000 years into the future. I mean, it's like, it's just how I'm wired, right? And so some of this stuff is constant, and some of this stuff is actually changing. And we need to be able to help people understand that in the context of the institutions that can make these things manifest, aka, new job, new career, new emphasis, new vocation, what am I going to do in retirement, whatever it happens to be. That for me was every 10 years.

Arthur Brooks 18:35
And you could say it's, I have a hard time really focusing, but that's actually not it. Because I've just taken the, the strengths that I have, I mean, I came to CliftonStrengths late. I actually, you know, took the CliftonStrengths early on, when I was a CEO, before I knew anybody at Gallup. I just knew that this -- I'd heard that this is the best possible thing to understand myself and my strengths. I was a brand new CEO. I took it, and it helped me a ton. And then later, after I met Jim Clifton, he hooked me up with a coach. And the coach really rocked my world, took it to a next level for me. So I am a true believer in what you guys are doing. And I'm, you know, I'm a huge fan. And I recommend it to everybody. I've even administered this to my students at Harvard. This is how much I believe in this thing.

Arthur Brooks 19:16
So for me, however, what I've done is every 10 years or so, I've gotten into a new environment where I can, where I can manifest these strengths that I have and these interests that I have. I really wanted to go as deep as I could into the world of the arts of beauty and classical music, and learn how to be an excellent performer early on. I found that that was kind of played out by my late 20s. So I decided to develop my brain so I could do this in, intellectually in a different way. I became a researcher. I did that for 10 years. Later, I was actually teaching and talking about nonprofit management. I thought, I wonder if I could actually run a nonprofit? I'm teaching people about nonprofits. So I went, I didn't just go and grab a job. I was selected to be the President of this very big, very old nonprofit. I mean, it, really a foolish decision on the basis of that board of directors; but it turned out OK in the end. I did that for 11 years as a CEO.

Arthur Brooks 20:07
And then I came back to academia, not just to do what I'd done before, but rather to start this whole empire of good -- of lifting people up and bringing them together. At the end of my time as a CEO, I was, I was praying about it, frankly, I was saying, "Lord, what do you want me to do?" And the answer came back, as far as I could tell, Lift people up and bring them together using your ideas for the rest of your life. And so now what do I do? I travel around, I write about happiness, I talk about happiness, I do books and columns, I get to do fun stuff like today. Fundamentally, I want to make people happier. And this is a really everything I do is just a platform for the things that we're talking about here. And so when I talk to people about changing vocation, changing job, I'm saying, just find a new platform to do the thing that you're ready to do at this part of your trajectory.

Austin Suellentrop 20:54
Love it. Great.

Learned Helplessness vs. Earning Your Success

Jim Collison 20:55
We got a great question, I think, from the chat room that will help kind of flesh this out a little bit. You said, So, could we say that if you know your CliftonStrengths talents, leverage the top talents, manage the blind spots and then turn them into strengths, will that make you happier? Talk a little bit about that.

Arthur Brooks 21:11
Yeah, for sure. One of the things that we find is when people are playing to their strengths, No. 1, that's called earning your success. Now, it's important to keep this in mind. There's an ancient -- when I say "ancient," I mean, like 40 years old -- in social psych idea called "learned helplessness." Learned helplessness is no matter what you do, things don't depend on the out -- the outcomes don't depend on your actions. And so you find -- for good and for ill. So you have some experiments where people are, you know, putting coins into, into slot machines and pulling the levers, and the outcomes have nothing to do with the numbers that are coming up. And people wander away from the machines; they don't like them anymore. They're boring. That's not, you know, there's no connection between what you do and what you get.

Arthur Brooks 21:52
You also find if people are arbitrarily penalized, they become very depressed. That's learned helplessness, the opposite is earning your success. Earned success is a, is a, just an absolutely reliable source of joy in your work. I don't care if you're a bus driver or, you know, a CliftonStrengths coach, or a college professor or a politician, I don't care, you got to earn your success. You got to -- achievement, hard work, merit, and be, and be rewarded because you're using your strengths. That's because you have strengths, but that you're using your strengths. That's critically important. So it's true: If you play to your strengths, if you use your strengths to, if you know them, and you use them, you're going to do great. You're going to do better. You're going to get paid more money. You're going to get more promotions; we all know that.

Arthur Brooks 22:32
But that's boring. The important thing is you're going to be happier about your life, because you're going to be earning your success. That feeling of achievement, of merit, of your skills meeting your passions, your strengths meeting your passions -- that is really critical. And the second part of being happy in your work is you got to serve others. You got to serve the humans. You got to feel like you're serving your fellow women and men, your sisters and brothers. And if you do that, then you can reliably think that your joy -- your work is going to bring you joy, even in the most tedious, stressful days, because you're lifting people up. How do you lift people up most effectively? You play to your strengths is the bottom line. If you want to serve your fellow women and men around the world, and if you want to actually feel like you're earning your success, know your strengths, and work to your strengths.

A Full Life Has Weaknesses and Strengths

Austin Suellentrop 23:20
Right. And being able to do that and think about using our strengths every day and applying them those four categories of, of happiness, I think, gives us a real concrete way to work to make our lives happier, which I don't think anybody listening wouldn't be excited about. When, in the book, you do touch on a topic that this community I know is very cognizant and interested in, which is the idea of, of our weaknesses. And what do we do? I mean, the book's got "strength," the word "strength" in it twice, right? So we know you're focusing on strengths. But this idea that you have to be able to deal with your weaknesses and convert them into a strength. So can you talk a bit about how weaknesses play into this?

Arthur Brooks 24:02
Yeah, one of the things that, and one of the mistakes we typically make is we, the only reason we want to know what our weaknesses are is so we can avoid them and hide them. But that's a huge lost opportunity, for a bunch of different reasons. To begin with, that's a, that's kind of a psychological hedonism and an egotism-driven thing, ordinarily. I mean, the whole idea that I've got these -- it's interesting, I'm writing right now my column for next week in The Atlantic. I'm writing about, you know, how people actually think of themselves as a hot mess, but they try to hide it so other people don't see that. And there's a whole bunch of reasons for that.

Arthur Brooks 24:35
But, but my point in the book, when I talk about using weaknesses as a source of strength, No. 1, is to rec -- is to remember that, that a full life has weaknesses and strengths. A full life has defeats as well as, as, as victories. It has sacrifice. It has suffering. And the truth is that meaning and purpose in life come a lot more from suffering than they do from pleasure, even than they do from enjoyment. And that's a really important thing to keep in mind. You know, a lot of my students, they're desperately trying not to fail. They're very afraid of failure. And they're trying to avoid suffering. They're trying to avoid unhappiness.

Arthur Brooks 25:07
But when you avoid unhappiness, you, ironically, you tend to avoid purpose and meaning. Your resiliency, what you can do, you know, people, I ask any -- any of the successful people on this call, I say, "When did you find what, what you were really made of as a person and what your purpose was?" They'll tell me about something hard, not like that week at the beach. You're going to talk about, you know, somebody died that I loved. You know, somebody broke my heart. You know, I lost a career, I lost a business. And then I really found, you know, the toughness and what I was able to get beyond.

Arthur Brooks 25:36
So that's No. 1, is that weakness is a part of life. I'm not telling people to go looking for suffering; suffering will find you. I'm saying, Learn from it and use it. The second part about weaknesses is that weaknesses are the unique part of your personality where you can truly connect with other people. You know, when I say, when somebody says, you know, "What's the best way for Brooks, what's the best way for you to connect with somebody?" I'm like, I teach at Harvard. And that really makes me a man of the people, right? I mean, that's, that's not right. It's like, it's, I think it's great. I love it, I'm really happy for, I'm really, truly grateful for it, but it doesn't connect me to anybody. What it does is it establishes a sort of credibility, it's a platform that I can use. What connects me emotionally with other people, which leaders need to do, is the fact that they have the same feet of clay. They have the same foibles, they have the same fears.

Arthur Brooks 26:21
One of the things that I, when I talk about, because I've studied this extensively, is when leaders are in a time of crisis, and their workforce is really afraid, is they need to do two things. They need to show the people who are afraid that, that their, that the emotions that they're feeling are absolutely appropriate and justified, but that there is a solution, and that there is something that we can do. That's hope. Optimism is not warranted; hope is really what we need to give people. And the way that you start by making the connection to other people such that they can be hope is to say, "I know you're afraid, and I'm not going to kid you; I'm afraid too. But here's the good news. There's a lot that we can do. And we're going to do it, and here's what we're going to do. Let's go team!" Right? Now, what did I do with? I led with my weakness, because my weakness connected me to you. That's really important.

Arthur Brooks 27:06
You know, it's funny, you know, you'll talk, I was doing, I was doing Oprah Winfrey Show the week before last, her Super Soul podcast -- she's incredibly great. I mean, she's a brilliant interviewer. And she was literally quoting my book to me by memory to me. It was unbelievable. But you know, the one thing that we kept talking about was how weaknesses with other people make them open up. The defenselessness -- you know, Brene Brown calls it "vulnerability," but I think "defenselessness" is maybe even better because the opposite is "defensiveness." And defensiveness is a way for you to protect yourself from people seeing your weaknesses. Defenselessness connects people to you. You know, when you say, "Look, yeah, your kid dropped out of college. So did I. So did I, and my parents were upset. And you know, frankly, I remember when my cohort of guys I went to high school with were starting to graduate from college, and I didn't have an, even have one semester under my belt, I was pretty bummed out. And I know how it feels" is the bottom line, and, but it can be OK.

Austin Suellentrop 28:06

Jim Collison 28:07
I, I'm getting this picture, Arthur, of, like, DNA. You know, we spent a lot of time thinking of this DNA strand and, and CliftonStrengths, right, that's kind of our, kind of a graphic we put on our site. But almost like the, you almost need some weakness receptacles for those other, other individual strengths receptacles to connect into, right. You almost need to, to get community, you almost need that to kind of happen in a way. And if you're hiding those receptacles, you're never going to make that connection. Is that --does that sound -- ?

Arthur Brooks 28:37
For sure. And it also has some very practical implications to it as well. So because I know my CliftonStrengths -- you could say, I know my Clifton, they are sort of like less, lesser strengths, also, aka weaknesses, right? It's like numbers, 30, 31, 32, 33 and 34, they're all about administration. They're all about management. They're all about, you know, being organized. And I'm not a, I'm not a disaster. But that's not what I can't do. It's what I don't like to do. That's what the weaknesses really are under the circumstances. Why is that important for me to know? Because like, I got a company. You know, I'm not, I'm a teacher, but I have a company on the side, and my company is on this, on teaching happiness to people -- you know, giving speeches, helping executives, helping teams become more effective with the science of happiness. To run that company, I got to have a CEO, and it better not be me. Why do I know that? Because I know my weaknesses. How do I know my weaknesses? Because I did CliftonStrengths.

Coaching to Remediate Weakness Can Bring Happiness

Arthur Brooks 29:32
So in other words, you got to coach people on how they can remediate their own weaknesses. And in so doing, they can be happier by doing that as well. Don't spend time saying, "Ah, I'm so bummed out because I'm not good at these things." Find somebody to do it, for Pete's sake, to the extent that you possibly can. Build a team. And by the way, love the team. The worst executives, what they all have in common is they try to find people with their strengths portfolio, with their same, and their same strengths profile, and they don't value people who don't have those strengths. That's exactly the wrong thing to do. My CEO, her name is Candice, she's phenomenal. She's like, her strengths are my 5 weaknesses. I'm so happy. I spend the day happy because I don't have to worry about that stuff.

Austin Suellentrop 30:13
I love it. The, the, one of the guiding principles, one of our principles of strengths-based sort of development is that people need one another, right? And that this idea that I can acknowledge I'm great at some things. And there are some things I'm terrible at, right. You just walk through yours. I know Jim has talked at length about some of his as well, and being able to own what you're not great at, so that you can then broadcast to the people around you where you need help and what that help can look like. I think we've, we talked about that at length; I'm not sure we've talked about it through the lens of how it can actually just make you happier to be able to do that. I love that as an additional layer to the strengths-based development lens here that it's not just more effective; it's not just going to create better outcomes. But my goodness, you'll be happier in the process.

Arthur Brooks 31:01
Yeah, and there are, look, there, and the interesting thing about CliftonStrengths is it's like there's nothing wrong with admitting them on the weakness side. It's not like ordinary; it's like, "Let me tell you, I got a problem. I'm just gonna lay it on the line. I shoplift." I mean, no, don't -- you know, fix that! You know, if that's your strength, if that's your weakness, and it's like, "I'm unfaithful to my wife." Don't do that! That's the wrong thing to do. Don't, don't, don't embrace that. But that's not what the, what the, the weaknesses really is in the CliftonStrengths approach. It's about, it's about the things that are, that you're not, that you're, not on your genome. They're not the things that you're naturally gifted at. And so those are the things that you need people around you, not to remediate, but to actually complete you. And that's a beautiful thing.

Austin Suellentrop 31:40
Absolutely. Love it.

The Happiest People Balance Their Big 4 Investments

Jim Collison 31:41
Theresa's got a good question, I think. She says, What about levels of happiness in faith, family, friendship and work? Do they all have to be going great? Or are there different levels of happiness in one or the other?

Arthur Brooks 31:53
So the happiest people, they have balance and abundance across the 4. That's one of the things that we find. Now, that does not mean that all four are going great all the time; it just means that you're spending time paying attention to those things, that you're investing across those 4 things. I mean, I know a lot of people who are, you know, really having, they're struggling with, with family life, for example. I mean, that's, you know, you ever had teenage kids? You know, you're struggling. I mean, unless you have some weird outlier, you know, kid.

Arthur Brooks 32:21
But I remember when my kids were, I had three kids in high school at once, you know, and it was, it was, I mean, my middle son, you know, thank God for the U.S. Marine Corps, cause he's all good now. But it was tricky, man. I mean, it was so bad for a while that, that, we were at the principal's office, you know, you know, his grades were just so bad. And we were leaving, and my wife says, "Well, at least we know, he's not cheating." And it was, I'm telling you, I mean, that was my, I was, I was not low on the investment on the family side; I was low on the success on the family side -- or so it seemed at the time.

Arthur Brooks 32:52
But I was making the investments. And ultimately, it's where you're putting your heart and where you're investing. That's in the long term, where you're gonna get your enjoyment, your satisfaction and meaning. So you have to keep investing. In the same way, by the way, if you've got an investment portfolio guy, and that's who's investing your, your 401(k), and like, I talk to my guy, you know, these days, you know, it's like, we're bleeding all over the place in the stock market. And I say, "Ah, that's awful!" And he says, "What are you talking about? It's an opportunity to buy stock cheap." Well, when your kid is failing out of math, that's your opportunity to invest in family. You're buying stock cheap; you're value investing is the bottom line.

Jim Collison 33:26
We just came out of a situation where my daughter, you know, spent 4 years in college and she needs to spend some more time in college. And in her, in her mind, there's a little bit of a failure there. And I always just kind of said, "You know what? We'll get through this. It's gonna be fine." Like --

Arthur Brooks 33:41
Yeah, tell her to call me. Tell her to call me. If she's getting out before 30, she's, she's doing, she's doing good.

Jim Collison 33:47
Hey, we'll, we'll, we'll make it through. I have no worries there. Theresa asks a good follow up question. She says, Do you find generational differences between people who are willing to own their weaknesses versus trying to fix their weaknesses? We often, you know, boomers, and Xers often get the hammer end of this where millennials and zillennials maybe get let off the hook. I just made a broad generalization -- I don't know. What do you think about that?

Arthur Brooks 34:10
No, it's interesting. And it, that's, as they say, you know, your results may vary. It really depends on, on the person and the family. And so I see a lot of young people who are trying to hide their weaknesses in a very, very big way. I know a lot of older people -- it's actually, in a weird way, it comes off more off-puttingly for older people when they're trying to avoid their, when they're trying to hide their weaknesses. You can't hide them very well; people kind of know. And, and it's like, you know, if I got, you know, trying to do something about this little weakness up here, most likely, you'd know and, and it wouldn't reflect that great on me necessarily. And so I think that it's important that we embrace them at any age is the bottom line. And at the same time, if it's something that's holding us back, to remediate them, to the extent that we can, in an open way, in a humble way and in a loving way as well.

Arthur Brooks 35:02
Also, asking for help is really critically important. You know, you're gonna get to a certain point in your life where certain things are not going to be remediated, and you just laugh about it. I mean, it's like, my hearing isn't as good as it used to be, because I was a professional musician for a long time. And so, you know, I say to my, you know, I'm teaching in a mask all semester, and, you know, the kids, I got 90 of them looking at me, and they'll, they'll put up their hand, I'll call them, they'll be like this -- . I'll be like, "You got to speak up. I'm old and deaf," you know. And so I could remediate that by getting a whole bunch of apparatuses. But it's actually just as easy to own the weaknesses, weakness, for now, at least. It's not connecting me to them, because they don't have the same weakness. But you get my point.

What You Can Control vs. What You Can't

Austin Suellentrop 35:42
Yeah. Wow. So as we sort of round the corner here and come to the last couple of minutes of our conversation, I want to maybe ask, ask one, one final question about maybe the setting where we currently are societally and sort of in the world. So many things happening -- we have a global community of coaches sort of around the world. When you think about the concept of happiness and playing to our strengths, what, what sort of balance, if there is any, is there between like the things you can control, maybe those, those 4 things and the investment you make there, and all the things that may be happening around you and in the world at large? I've got high Positivity, right? It's really tough for me sometimes to watch the news and constantly see bad, you know, sad, negative stories about things that are happening. What's the relationship there between things in your control, and maybe dealing with those things outside of your sphere of control?

Arthur Brooks 36:37
Well, to begin with, spend as much time on things that are in your control as possible. This is the basic happiness lesson. I tell people, for example, there's an, there's an excessive obsession with the info-news-entertainment complex in America today. Most people don't know who their School Superintendent is, but they know the inner workings of Congress. And so there's, there's, they're throwing stuff at their cable TV channel in the evening. And that's a, and that's a mistake, because what the cable TV channel is trying to do is they're trying to spike your dopamine. And so doing, they can get better ad revenue, they're, they're, they're, they're managing you, under the circumstances, around something over which you don't have very much control.

Arthur Brooks 37:13
Be an informed citizen, but you can be an informed citizen on 15 minutes a day of information total about politics, and 30 minutes a day total of news. Now, if you want more than that, be careful, because that that easily turns into a dopamine fixation, because you're actually getting this, you know, getting the hormones that, that your kind, you kind of like. And what's happening is being annoyed, being angry, you know, throwing stuff at the TV, being contemptuous what's going on, it is going to be satisfying a little bit of an addiction -- or on social media, it can be even worse, by the way. The trouble is, it's not going to make you happy. You need to manage your feelings so your feelings don't manage you, vis-a-vis your dopaminergic pathways is what I'm talking about.

Arthur Brooks 37:53
So pay attention to the things you can. If you really want to get involved in policy and public, and public policy and politics, get involved in locally as much as you possibly can. That's really important. And the second thing is be, be paying attention to the stuff that's most local of all. I can't tell you how many people are paying attention to, you know, President Biden but not their own kids. You know, it's, that's a really big mistake. And I realize that it's funny, you know, and also, by the way, I'm talking to people all the time who are more involved in making money than they are in the kids. That's the workaholic's, the workaholic's dilemma, but that's a different version of more or less the same kind of scale of what's going on. Pay attention to the people and the love closest to you.

Austin Suellentrop 38:33

Jim Collison 38:34
It's really good advice. It's really hard. It's really good advice. In, as part of your, on your website, you've got a resource that's available, a reading group guide. You encourage groups to get together in this. And as part of it, there's a, you know, a bunch of questions that folks can download. I did that today. Doesn't even require an email address; you're missing a huge opportunity for spam there. Just thought I'd tell you that. But how do you envision, as you think about these coaches, any, any additional thoughts? Like you've got some resource guides here. But how could they use this book in their coaching to help individuals on things we haven't talked about yet?

Coaching People at Different Ages

Arthur Brooks 39:07
So the, what I would recommend for, given that we're inside the Gallup and Clifton families here, what I would recommend is thinking in a more creative way, with more expertise than by the way that I have, because I'm not a Clifton's coach; I'm a Clifton client. And, but for the Clifton coaches who really know the strengths inside and out -- know how to use it, know how to give people guidance -- the book should be helpful for thinking about people and their strengths at different points in their leadership careers. So in other words, this can actually, this book can, can help to create a little bit more granularity about how you're coaching people at different ages.

Arthur Brooks 39:44
So you have a 35-year-old client, it's gonna be very different than if you have a 55-year-old client. The 35-year-old client is going to be guided toward all using their, their CliftonStrengths maximally to, to, to increase their fluid intelligence -- to leverage their fluid intelligence. At 55, it's moving them on to their crystallized intelligence curve. There's a lot about how to do that in this, in this book, but I didn't interact it with the CliftonStrengths. The, this community is going to be uniquely able to take this book and actually say, OK, what does crystallized intelligence look like? And how am I going to do a CliftonStrengths profile that suits somebody uniquely who is 55 or 60, as opposed to 25 or 30?

Jim Collison 40:24
Austin, we're at the end of our time. Can you take a second and thank Dr. Brooks for joining us today?

Austin Suellentrop 40:30
I absolutely can. Dr. -- Arthur, as you, I, just, again, I'm, I've, Jim and I were so excited. We were, we were like, we were, literally, we've been messaging back and forth for weeks as we've gotten ready for this. Thank you for bringing not only your expertise to the conversation, but the obvious passion and example you set of What does it look like to be happy and love what you're doing? And, and the courage of, for sharing some of your stories of your career and your experiences. On behalf of the entire CliftonStrengths community of 13,000 coaches globally, we thank you for spending time with us, and hopefully look forward to talking to you more in the future, as we put into practice some of the, some of the great things you shared with us today. Really.

Arthur Brooks 41:09
Thanks, Austin. Thanks to all the Clifton coaches. You're doing good things to the world. You're making your living by lifting people up and making them more effective and, and, quite frankly, making them happier as well. And we can all use more of that.

Austin Suellentrop 41:21
Yeah, for sure.

Jim Collison 41:22
One of the greatest privileges we have at Gallup is we've got these great Senior Scientists like you that we get to hear from all the time. And what a, what a privilege, we got to spend some time one-on-one with you, in some time just for us. And so, Arthur, thanks for, thanks for doing that. Thanks for being worried about being happy. I think we've got a lot, got a lot opportunities there with people around the world. I hear from them all the time. And, and what a great reminder here to really focus on that. Again, the book, From Strength to Strength, it's available, I put the website and the link in the chat. Folks can go out there and take a look at it. We'll make sure we include the link to that as well in the show notes. With that, we'll remind everyone to take full advantage of all these resources. We've been talking about CliftonStrengths here in this session. Out at, just log in, there's a Resource tab; just about everything you can think of is there. For coaching, master coaching or if you want to become a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, send us an email: -- an easy way for us to get some information back to you on that. You can join us in our Facebook group: I'm sure this conversation is going to, going to spark up there over the next couple of days, and I'd love to engage in that conversation for you. And of course, find us everywhere just by searching "CliftonStrengths" -- all one word -- on any social platform, and we'll be there for you. We want to thank you for joining us today. If you listened to us live, thanks for coming out live, and thanks for your questions. If you're listening to the podcast, make sure you subscribe so you never miss an episode. With that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

Arthur Brooks' Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Futuristic, Ideation, Strategic, Woo and Input.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:

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