My Oscar Predictions / Revised!

I have to revise my predictions.

I’m in LA and have just seen 1917. I had made my predictions earlier not having seen the film – based on reviews, guild wins, and industry momentum.

Having seen the film now I put it as my pick for Best Picture ahead of The Irishman.

I think it should also win Best Editing, Best Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Best Production Design.

And Roger Deakins is a slam dunk for Best Cinematography, as is Sam Mendes for Best Director.

It’s an astonishing piece of work all around.

My Oscar predictions for 2020

Each year, as many of you who follow this blog might know, I make my Oscar predictions.

I’m normally pretty good, with a strike rate usually in the mid 90%.

This year it’s going to be more difficult, because surprisingly at a time when cinema is dominated by Star Wars movies or Marvel or other bonehead super-hero movies, there have been a lot of standout “real” cinema films released.

I say that because Martin Scorcese started what turned out to be a spirited debate last year by claiming that comic book super-hero movies weren’t cinema.

Here is his Op-Ed piece in the New York Times that started it all:

Martin Scorcese is one of the greatest film directors of all time. He’s been nominated for an Oscar more times than any other living director. His films include Taxi Driver, Raging Bull (my favourite), Goodfellas, and most recently The Irishman. 

Essentially, what Scorcese said was that “cinema was about revelation — aesthetic, emotional and spiritual revelation. It was about characters — the complexity of people and their contradictory and sometimes paradoxical natures, the way they can hurt one another and love one another and suddenly come face to face with themselves.”

He upset a lot of people by saying that the superhero movies have none of that. He was supported by Francis Ford Coppola, another legendary director – director of The Godfather movies, and my second favourite war film of all time – Apocalypse Now – second to Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory.

Anyway, I digress.

Standout films this year, for me, were:

JoJo Rabbit

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Ford vs Ferrari
The Two Popes 
The Irishman

I haven’t seen all the nominated movies this year because I’ve been working on a new novel – Again, I Die – and a new movie – Facing Fear. And I live in Mudgee 4hrs drive out of Sydney and we don’t have a working cinema in town, sadly. So my predictions will be a bit of throwing darts at a board, blindfolded.

However, for me the top film of the year without a doubt was Joker. It was everything I want cinema to be – audacious, challenging, shocking, innovative in craft, and political. It was a movie that could be read either way on the political spectrum. And it was a film that spoke boldly about where we are right now, and where we might well end up. Joker for me was not only the best film of the year, but the best film I’ve seen in a long long time.

For sheer audacity though, it’s hard to beat JoJo Rabbit.

I predict Joker will win a slew of awards but not the top gong, because ultimately the Oscar voters are a bunch of elderly white rich dudes that are fairly conservative in their views. The fact that Joker was a huge financial success, taking in more than $1bn at the box office, will certainly help its chances.

But for me, the big tussle for Best Picture tonight I believe will be between The Irishman, Sam Mendes’ 1917, and Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. If The Irishman wins, it will be a huge coup for Netflix, which financed the movie. Traditional distribution shied away from Scorcese’s high production budget – but Netflix with huge resources at its disposal wrote the cheque – and if the movie wins Best Picture tonight it will further validate the position of the streamers in modern filmmaking.

Another film made for streaming was Marriage Story. I didn’t get that movie. There were several much better “kitchen sink” dramas made in the 70s. It gave me no great revelations about the human condition, or the times we live in. Two Popes did that in spades. I loved that movie.

Okay, so here are my predictions. As I say, this year is wide open with so many outstanding movies – but here goes:

Oh, and this year I’m adding the film or person that I believe deserved to win!

Best Picture
The Irishman
BB: Joker

Best Director
Sam Mendes / 1917
BB: Todd Philips / Joker

Best Actor
Joaquin Phoenix / Joker
BB: Joaquin Phoenix / Joker

Best Actress
Renee Zwelleger / Judy
BB: Scarlett Johansson / JoJo Rabbit

Best Supporting Actor
Brad Pitt / Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
BB: a three way tie between Joe Pesci / The Irishman, Anthony Hopkins / The Two Popes, and Taika Waititi / JoJo Rabbit

Best Supporting Actress
Laura Dern / Marriage Story
BB: Charlize Theron / Bombshell

Best Original Screenplay
Quentin Tarantino / Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
BB: Quentin Tarantino / Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Adapted Screenplay
Taika Waititi / JoJo Rabbit
BB: Anthony McCarten / The Two Popes

Best Foreign Language Film
BB: Parasite

Best Cinematography
Roger Deakins / 1917
BB: Lawrence Sher / Joker

Best Film Editing
Ford vs Ferarri
BB: Jeff Groth / Joker

Best Sound Mixing:
Ford vs Ferarri
BB: a tie between  Rocketman and Joker

Best Production Design
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
BB: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Visual Effects
BB: 1917

Original Score
BB: Joker

Original Song
I’m gonna Love me Again / Rocketman
BB: I’m gonna Love me Again / Rocketman

Best Costume Design
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
BB: Dolemite is my Name

Best Makeup & Hair
BB: Dolemite is my Name

Best Documentary
American Factory
BB: Honeyland

Best Animated Feature
Toy Story 4
BB: Frozen 2

Like I said, this year is incredibly hard to pick. I’m currently in LA and I’ll be flying back home tonight while the Oscars are on, so I’ll have to wait until I land Tuesday morning Sydney time to see how I did compared to who actually won.

What was hugely pleasing for me this year though was that there was a bunch of very fine films that were actually made for adults. Scorcese was right – this is cinema. 

The Kindness of Strangers ~

I was on my walk this morning –

Sunday mornings, I always walk. Today it was a 10km walk and by mid morning it was already hot – 38C, or 100F.

And it was smokey, from the bushfires.

The bushfires haven’t affected my town directly. I live in Mudgee, a beautiful wine-making town about 4hrs drive north-west of Sydney. The bushfires have come close to the town, and the smoke has at times been dense.

Anyway, I was about halfway into my walk, heading out through the vineyards, when a truck pulled up beside me.

A bloke leaned out of the cab of his battered 4WD, and he held up a face-mask. The kind you get from pharmacies to put over your mouth and nose to filter out the bad air.

Mate, you need this? 

I didn’t know this bloke.
He didn’t know me.
He was a stranger.
He looked like a bushie – someone who lives and works in the bush.

I was knocked out by this random act of kindness.
I said No thanks, I’m fine – and he nodded and drove on.
And I kept walking.

It was a small gesture, I know, but it meant a lot to me. And I began to think of all the random acts of kindness that are happening around our country at the moment, in the face of these devastating bushfires.

The firies, as the firefighters here are called, are largely volunteers – and they are literally putting their lives at risk each day to save lives and property. And they ask for nothing in return – not even recognition or praise.

Jennifer and I know one of these firies – someone close to us – and we have such admiration for the job he, and other members of the Rural Fire Service, are doing.

They would rail at being called heroes.
They just do what they’ve been trained to do – deal with firestorms.

When things get tough, the true character of a person comes to the fore.
And you see the world more clearly.
What’s important.
What’s dear to you.
And what’s unimportant.
What really doesn’t matter.

So much really doesn’t matter, does it, when it comes down to it.

Things don’t matter.
People matter.
Kindness matters.
Generosity of spirit matters.
Gratitude matters.
Love matters.

Most of all –
Love matters.


End of year Audit and hopes for 2020!

As followers of this blog know, at this time each year I do an audit of what I achieved this past year, pegged against what I said I wanted to achieve – and I set out what I hope to achieve the coming year.

How did I go? Well, as you’ll see from below it’s been another very busy year. I did some, didn’t do some. Here’s what I wanted to achieve in 2019, and what I did achieve –

  • Continue the marketing and promotion of PGS the movie.
    Yes, the marketing and promotion of PGS has been ongoing.
  • Shift into the educational side of PGS, through workshops, and online training.
    Done, sort of. We’ve started up a PGS Study Group with the help of Adriana Cortazzo, but intend to develop the educational side further in 2020 
  • Write the screenplay of THE WAY, MY WAY – and begin casting and financing.
    Done. I wrote the screenplay – I now have Australian/New Zealand distribution in place, a Spanish co-production partner, and a US sales agent/financier on board.
  • Complete the manuscript of the third in the Palace of Fires trilogy – BEAST.
    Done. I completed the manuscript – 110k words. A big book. And it’s a cracker of a finale to the trilogy.
  • Penguin Random House will publish BEAST.
    Done. It was published earlier this year.
  • I will write my next book, a thriller called Again, I Die.
    Done – sort of. I’m almost finished – currently at 85k words. The final manuscript will end up being about 100k words. I will have the ms completed, with revisions, by end of February.
  • I will commence production on my theatrical feature documentary on fear.
    Done. Have now shot more than 30 interviews, mostly in the US, and already have nearly 50hrs of footage.

So what do I hope to achieve in 2020? I’m not slowing down, that’s for sure!

  • Complete the manuscript of Again, I Die.
  • Get Again, I Die published.
  • Complete production of Fear – the Movie. 
  • Commence development of a TV series based on my feature film KISS OR KILL.
  • Commence production of DEFIANT, the feature film based on the true story of a double honour killing in India.
  • Get THE WAY, MY WAY cast and financed.
  • Write the manuscript for a new book on intuition.
  • Produce a Masterclass based around the book.
  • Get PGS out wider into culture.
  • Spend more time meditating.

In amongst all that I want to go visit exotic places, meet wonderful people and renew/refresh friendships, and have fun with my extraordinary life partner Jennifer.

I’m a Narcissist – so are you!

I’ve come to the conclusion I’m a narcissist.

It didn’t take me long, principally because I’m incredibly smart.
Actually, brilliant is probably more apt.

I’m a narcissist.

The mere fact that I’m writing this post – that in fact I have a blog at all, and in my own name what’s more – proves that I’m a narcissist.

I expect that others will be interested in my thoughts – that is, me – because I am what I think.

At least, I think I am.

I wasn’t always a narcissist.
I’ve become that way.
I’ve been required to.
It’s been a case of either become a narcissist or die.

Social media.
That’s what’s done it.

Social media demands that each of us flaunt our narcissistic tendencies. We want people to like us. We acquire self esteem through our number of likes. Our sense of worth is no longer measured by what car we drive, or what house we live in – it’s measured by our following. Our community. How many friends we have.

I have nearly five thousand friends on Facebook.
I know maybe 200 of them.
I’m friends with maybe 100 of them.
That’s all I have time for.
Friends require time.
And I don’t have a great deal of time,
because I’m too busy being narcissistic.
Finding new friends.

We have come into an age where we’re not only allowed to be narcissistic, it’s de riguer. In fact, if you’re not narcissistic there’s something wrong with you.

You’re old fashioned.
You’re not cool.
You don’t exist.

Being narcissistic and being humble aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, they’re bed-fellows. I know people who tell people how humble they are.

Me: I’m humbler than you.
Him: No you’re not.
Me: Fuck yeah man, I’m way more humbler than you.
I’m on a spiritual journey and you’re not so I must be.
Him: (deflated) Oh yeah. I’m going to start my spiritual journey
once I get to 10,000 Instagram followers.
Me: Good luck with that.

I’m now going to post an image of myself on this blog.
What a wonderful act of narcissism.
Which photo should I choose?
There are so so many.
My god I’m handsome.
This is so difficult – choosing…
Me pensive?
Me virile?
Me ten years ago?
I know – I’ll choose this one…


New look – New title …

I’ve decided to retitle the blog – to just…

bill bennett
being – 

I like “being.”
I’m a human being.
And I try to just “be.”
Each day I am “be-ing.”
Or try to be!

Anyway, this allows me to blog about stuff that’s not Camino related necessarily – because as you know the blog began in April 2013 to document my walking the Camino de Santiago.

But the blog has gradually shifted away from that – to encompass my film work, my novels, and general stuff which interests me and I hope interests you.

There will still be Camino posts from time to time, because my engagement with the Camino is ongoing – but this new look/new title better suits the range of material I am now exploring.

I will also be blogging now at least once a week, and more if something comes up that I want to share with you.

I enjoy writing blog posts. It’s a different form of writing that requires different rules, different rhythms. Writing blogs has informed my writing style in other areas. It’s subtle, but to me it’s been revelatory.

Anyway, I feel refreshed.
Shiny and new!
A new look to go into the new year.

Stay with me because I’m going to have fun!

I’m viral! 2million views!

When I was younger – much younger – before I became a filmmaker I used to be a television reporter.

I was trained in news journalism at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and at the tender age of 23, after completing a three year cadetship, I moved across to the ABC’s flagship current affairs show at the time, This Day Tonight. I chose to be stationed in Adelaide, because I knew I’d screw up, being young and raw, and I figured that my televisual embarrassments would go largely unseen in the South Australian backwater.  

Not much happened in Adelaide. Which suited me fine, because it gave me the opportunity to develop my storytelling skills in an environment that was unpressured. I could make mistakes and have fun, and not get hammered by the tv execs.

Well, not much…

Being the youngest reporter there I was often given the shittiest jobs. It turned out to be a great training ground, because within two years I would be poached by the highest rating current affairs show on commercial tv, and a year later I would win the country’s highest award in television, a Logie, for Television Reporter of the Year.

But back to Adelaide –

It was a slow day in Adelaide and each day we had to fill half an hour of tv – to screen at prime time at 7:30pm. I was sent out to do a “puff piece” on milk cartons. This was 1976, and there’d been complaints in the local newspaper that the cartons, that had new-fangled pop-up spouts, were hard to open.

You have to understand that in Adelaide in 1976, it hadn’t been that long ago that milk got delivered in cans from the back of horse-drawn carts.

Anyway, I did this “filler” piece, and I had some fun with it, and then duly forgot about it. Until a few months ago, when my sister texted me to say that the ABC had put the story up on Facebook, as part of a retro series they were running.

That was four months ago.
It has now had more than two million views.
I guess that makes me viral.

Huh – and I always thought that being viral required bedrest and a hot lemon drink.

The video has been shared on Facebook more than 10k times, and had nearly 6k comments. And some of the comments are hilarious.
Some have required me to respond, such as:

Troy: He looks a bit like Ted Bundy.
Me: Ted Bundy didn’t wear turtlenecks.
Troy: Yes he did.
Me: Oh…

Peter: He doesn’t know how to pull the flaps apart. He must be gay.
Me: Actually I’m not, but I’ve since learned how the flaps work.

Margaret: My god, and he’s married. I hope he didn’t breed.
Me: I did. Watch out.

Christine: I want to punch him. HARD.
Me: Ouch.
Christine: Sorry Bill

Yousef: I need to meet this man.
Me: Believe me, you don’t!

Kusdi: For his age, he was very dumb.
Me: I still am…

There were a lot of comments from Millennials about how useless Boomers were/are, and how I had more than a passing resemblance to various serial killers.

At the time I did that story, it might have been seen by maybe 100,000 people the night it went to air. More than forty years later, and in four months it’s been seen by more than 2 million. What a crazy world we live in!

Here is the video:

Intuition Insights – by Dr. Francesca McCartney

I met Dr. Francesca McCartney early in the making of my film on intuition: PGS – Intuition is your Personal Guidance System.
Francesca is the Founder of the Academy of Intuition Medicine – perhaps the world’s foremost teaching institution of intuition. Francesca was not only interviewed in the film, she also assisted me greatly behind the scenes in connecting me with other key intuition practitioners.
Francesca was recently interviewed for a new book – Developing Informed Intuition for Decision Making, edited by Jay Leibowitz. Here is an excerpt from that book, featuring Francesca. It’s all about hunches!
The idea of intuition is increasingly used in discussions about business management and decision-making, sometimes as if it were a new concept. But it is hardly so. A manager in the days before the Internet had little choice but to use intuition-the raw data simply was not accessible. Often, “a hunch” was all there was. Today, so much data is available that the inverse is true-in mere seconds, we can sum­mon enough data to support any decision we want to make-good or bad. Sorting through this flood of data makes the use of intuition more crucial than ever. Are we back to the idea of a hunch?
What is a hunch? Where does it come from, and how can we tell if a hunch is coming from intuition or false beliefs? Let’s ask an expert.
For the past 40 years, Francesca McCartney, PhD, has been researching and teaching the use of intuition in daily life and as a modality for medical healing. She has published several books, is a featured lecturer on the topic of intuition, and is the founder of three schools: the Academy of Intuition Medicine® founded in 1984; Energy Medicine University, founded 2006; and the Academy of Intuition Medicine® Online, founded in 2017.  
[Kirk Hurford] Dr. McCartney, I know this sounds simple, but to begin with, what is intuition?  
[Francesca McCartney]
That was exactly the question I asked in 1976, and I am continuing to explore and expand upon that topic. Recent research shows that humans have more than 21 senses. Most people assume that we operate with only the five common senses. That belief was given to us by Aristotle and is long overdue for a revision. Those over the five senses are accessed via intuition.
The Oxford Dictionary defines intuition as “the faculty of knowing as if by instinct, without conscious reasoning.” But what does that mean? It is the sense of knowing or perceiving something without knowing exactly how you know. How does this work? Can we develop this ability in ourselves for decision-making and more? Yes!
Humans are wired from birth to receive inner- and outer-world information signals, but too often we ignore or don’t trust our subtle intuitive perceptions. The world is constantly communicating with us and the secret is learning to pay attention.
We are so much more than our five common senses, and learning to listen to, trust, and act upon your intuition develops super-consciousness, and with practice, becomes the normal way you live in your body and operate in the world.
We experience intuition in many perfectly ordinary, everyday ways. Intuition is the sudden “Aha!” that seemingly comes from nowhere after wracking your brain for an analytical solution that refuses to come-the light bulb over your head. Intuition is the flash of insight that reveals where your lost keys are. Intuition is the picture of someone in your head just before they call on the phone or walk into your office. Intuition is that feeling in your gut when something is not right, or someone is lying. Intuition is that inner knowing, so often drowned out by other, more insistent noises, that warns or advises us, and to which we often say (after the fact), “If only I had listened …”  
[KH] Listened to what?  
[FM] Intuition has location signal points within your body. Intuition is a learned language of interpreting those signals-just as a child learns how to decipher signal language from sight, smell, sound, touch, and taste. Each of the five com­mon senses has a receptor location that delivers signals to the nervous system and the brain for decoding and informing. The language of intuition operates in the same way.
In business, and in life, operating with a wide perspective of information yields the best outcome in the decision-making process. Five points of perception is a lim­ited range of information and often is filtered through bias from conditioned data entry. An excellent starting place to stimulate stronger intuitive language signals is to listen to your first hit, go with your hunch, trust your gut feeling. The more you listen, trust, and follow through with your hits and hunches the stronger the sig­nal wiring in the nervous system becomes, whereupon your decisions are memory imprinted in your brain, which develops a cognitive intuitive language.  
When we say cognitive bias, we’re referring to a personal perspective, right? How is this different from intuition?  
Cognitive bias is a language of personal perspective that for the five-sense person is developed from a limited perspective of the five senses. Western-minded people lean toward using analysis and rote educational sources for deductive decision-making. This system of analytical decision-making does not recognize the larger menu of possible choices available with the expanded human sense of intuition, and therein is a limited decision-making process. Decisions made in a box rather than inspirational choices streaming from outside of the box-where intuition, inspira­tion, and invention operate.
Limited perception developed as a survival mechanism as our body is bom­barded by two million bits of information every minute. The common senses and analytical mind act as a filter. If we were unable to filter out most of these bits, we would go mad in one second. We use our filters-the purpose of which was to weed out information irrelevant to our species-for the task: to lock into those objectifi­cations alone which are in tune with cultural, informational, and survival purposes.  
To survive with a semblance of sanity, we need some sort of filters to pick out those events, interactions, or relationships that we want or need to focus on. This doesn’t mean that we should always keep filters in place or use them for purposes other than they were originally intended. Filters require intentional management. If properly handled, filters can both isolate the objects that we need to focus on and reveal their relationship with other objects and the whole. They can be both-like two sides of a coin.  
Intuitively sourced information does not pass through the same perceptual fil­ters that process analytical information. The sense of sight, for example, gathers five points of data through the rods and cones in the eyes, travels through a decoding filter in the optic nerve that chooses three of the five data points based on the most common memory-that is the memory pattern that has the most charge stored in the brain and delivers a composite image to the brain built on that three of five choice of repeated experience.
This creates visual image perception based on repeated data and most likely probabilities and excludes new data/new perception as a primary choice for decision-making. These filters become so internalized and automated that alternative perspectives, such as intuitive sensing, are not even rec­ognized. This mostly unconscious control mechanism obstructs the ability to think outside of the box, thus limiting new knowledge, inspiration, and the “quick hit.”
Historical and cultural contexts also influence perception and create bias. A Coke bottle dropped from an airplane into a society of bushmen in South Africa’s Kalahari Desert in the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy is seen as many things, but never as a container for carbonated beverages. It has been reported that some pre-Columbian Native Americans could not see the large sailing vessels of the first European explorers to approach their shores because they had no cultural prec­edent for such an event or object, and no appropriate words in their vocabulary to describe it. Thus, in their reality, such things simply did not exist. Even the “objec­tive” cognitive act of seeing in the material world requires a synergy of senses.
Genius is often described as highly creative, clever, and brilliant-characteris­tics of a person who has access to knowledge and data beyond the norm-which is a definition that also applies to intuition.  
So, you’re saying intuitive information is from outside the box, and cognitive bias is an attempt to restrict information from inside the box?  
In the broadest sense, yes. Information is more than just facts. Facts also have context. Context is a powerful influence on how we perceive facts. Context is what gives facts meaning. For example, you might be reading a story about animals on a farm and, at some point in events, you realize that there is a bigger story being told (Orwell, 1945). As the context changes, so does your perception of the facts. The pig is no longer a pig. Intuition allows for a richer context. Cognitive bias comes from a failure to perceive and appreciate the contextual information that comes from our extra-normal senses.

Dr. Francesca McCartney in PGS – Intuition is your Personal Guidance System


Twins in the Womb

This delightful story was given to me by Natalie Ledwell (Mind Movies.)
She got it from Michael Koenigs.
I’m now giving it to you!

In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other: 

“Do you believe in life after delivery?” 

The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”

“Nonsense” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?”

The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.”

The first replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.”

The second insisted, “Well I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.”

The first replied, “Nonsense. And moreover if there is life, then why has no one has ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.”

“Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.”

The first replied “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists then where is She now?”

The second said, “She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her this world would not and could not exist.”

Said the first: “Well I don’t see Her, so it is only logical that She doesn’t exist.”

To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and you really listen, you can perceive Her presence, and you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.

A talk on happiness ~

I don’t often post other people’s stuff here – not because I think anyone else’s opinions or thoughts are inherently inferior to mine, although there could be an element of that – (just kidding folks!) – it’s that there are plenty of opportunities to read other people’s stuff elsewhere.

However I came across this TED Talk on happiness, by Shawn Achor, a Harvard trained scientist and author of The Happiness Advantage and thought it was worth sharing.This particular TED Talk has been viewed nearly 20 million times, and I can see why – his views on working hard, achieving success and being happy are quite unconventional.

Here is a précised transcript of his talk – and here is the video link too –
Shawn Achor TED Talk on Happiness

TED Talk – Happiness

When I was seven years old and my sister was just five years old, we were playing on top of a bunk bed. I was two years older than my sister at the time — I mean, I’m two years older than her now — but at the time it meant she had to do everything that I wanted to do, and I wanted to play war. So we were up on top of our bunk beds. And on one side of the bunk bed, I had put out all of my G.I. Joe soldiers and weaponry. And on the other side were all my sister’s My Little Ponies ready for a cavalry charge. 

There are differing accounts of what actually happened that afternoon, but since my sister is not here with us today, let me tell you the true story — which is my sister’s a little on the clumsy side. Somehow, without any help or push from her older brother at all, Amy disappeared off of the top of the bunk bed and landed with this crash on the floor. I nervously peered over the side of the bed to see what had befallen my fallen sister and saw that she had landed painfully on her hands and knees on all fours on the ground. 

I was nervous because my parents had charged me with making sure that my sister and I played as safely and as quietly as possible. And seeing as how I had accidentally broken Amy’s arm just one week before — heroically pushing her out of the way of an oncoming imaginary sniper bullet,  for which I have yet to be thanked, I was trying as hard as I could — she didn’t even see it coming — I was trying hard to be on my best behavior. 

And I saw my sister’s face, this wail of pain and suffering and surprise threatening to erupt from her mouth and wake my parents from the long winter’s nap for which they had settled. So I did the only thing my frantic seven year-old brain could think to do to avert this tragedy. And if you have children, you’ve seen this hundreds of times. I said, “Amy, wait. Don’t cry. Did you see how you landed? No human lands on all fours like that. Amy, I think this means you’re a unicorn.” 

Now, that was cheating, because there was nothing she would want more than not to be Amy the hurt five year-old little sister, but Amy the special unicorn. Of course, this option was open to her brain at no point in the past. And you could see how my poor, manipulated sister faced conflict, as her little brain attempted to devote resources to feeling the pain and suffering and the surprise she just experienced at contemplating her new-found identity as a unicorn. And the latter won. 

Instead of crying or ceasing our play, instead of waking my parents, with all the negative consequences for me, a smile spread across her face and she scrambled back up onto the bunk bed with all the grace of a baby unicorn — 

What we stumbled across at this tender age of just five and seven — we had no idea at the time — was going be at the vanguard of a scientific revolution occurring two decades later in the way that we look at the human brain. We had stumbled across something called positive psychology, which is the reason I’m here today and the reason that I wake up every morning. 

The key to understanding the science of happiness is understanding the way your brain processes the world. What I’ve found is that only 25% of job successes are predicted by IQ, 75 percent of job successes are predicted by your optimism levels, your social support and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat. 

For instance, the absence of disease is not health. Here’s how we get to health: We need to reverse the formula for happiness and success. 

Most companies and schools follow a formula for success, which is this: If I work harder, I’ll be more successful. And if I’m more successful, then I’ll be happier. That undergirds most of our parenting and managing styles, the way that we motivate our behavior. 

The problem is that it’s scientifically broken and backwards for two reasons. Every time your brain has a success, you just changed the goalpost of what success looked like. You got good grades, now you have to get better grades, you got into a good school and after you get into a better one, you got a good job, now you have to get a better job, you hit your sales target, we’re going to change it. And if happiness is on the opposite side of success, your brain never gets there. We’ve pushed happiness over the cognitive horizon, as a society. And that’s because we think we have to be successful, then we’ll be happier. 

But our brains work in the opposite order. If you can raise somebody’s level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage, which is your brain at positive performs significantly better than at negative, neutral or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise. In fact, we’ve found that every single business outcome improves. Your brain at positive is 31% more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed. You’re 37% better at sales. Doctors are 19 percent faster, more accurate at coming up with the correct diagnosis when positive instead of negative, neutral or stressed. 

Which means we can reverse the formula. If we can find a way of becoming positive in the present, then our brains work even more successfully as we’re able to work harder, faster and more intelligently. We need to be able to reverse this formula so we can start to see what our brains are actually capable of. Because dopamine, which floods into your system when you’re positive, has two functions. Not only does it make you happier, it turns on all of the learning centers in your brain allowing you to adapt to the world in a different way. 

We’ve found there are ways that you can train your brain to be able to become more positive. In just a two-minute span of time done for 21 days in a row, we can actually rewire your brain, allowing your brain to actually work more optimistically and more successfully. We’ve done these things in research now in every company that I’ve worked with, getting them to write down three new things that they’re grateful for for 21 days in a row, three new things each day. And at the end of that, their brain starts to retain a pattern of scanning the world not for the negative, but for the positive first. 

Journaling about one positive experience you’ve had over the past 24 hours allows your brain to relive it. Exercise teaches your brain that your behavior matters. We find that meditation allows your brain to get over the cultural ADHD that we’ve been creating by trying to do multiple tasks at once and allows our brains to focus on the task at hand. And finally, random acts of kindness are conscious acts of kindness. We get people, when they open up their inbox, to write one positive email praising or thanking somebody in their support network. 

And by doing these activities and by training your brain just like we train our bodies, what we’ve found is we can reverse the formula for happiness and success, and in doing so, not only create ripples of positivity, but a real revolution.