Shawn Achor: “May the force of others be with you”

By Erin Miller

This afternoon, I watched the curtains part and saw WorkHuman attendees literally running for the front rows to see Shawn Achor’s keynote. Needless to say, he is a fan favorite, returning for his third WorkHuman conference this year. “I come here and I leave fueled,” he said about WorkHuman. “I don’t think that the world is that cold and dark. I think we need to shine brighter together.”

Shawn’s talk covered everything from bugs in Indonesia, to combining a cardinal and a frog, to an awkward dance with Oprah, to nudity at Harvard. Yes, he covered all of it.

Shawn opened his talk with an amazing moment of vulnerability, sharing that today was the day he and his wife, Michelle, had scheduled a C-section to welcome their daughter, Zoe. Instead, Michelle’s water broke during the Super Bowl on February 4, and their daughter was born very prematurely at 3 pounds. He expressed how this experience had shaped him in meaningful ways over the last few months. “If I research, I can control it,” he told himself at the time, but he soon realized that he had no power at all over this situation.

Learning to focus on what he could control during this time was a journey. He’s thankful for this journey, because he was able to battle test the research he’s been working on. To put it beautifully as Shawn did, “the messiness of life is a different story.” It’s not a lab space in which you can control all of the elements.

“Life is precious. These moments are fleeting and real,” Shawn said.

Shawn explained how at the last minute of production for Star Wars, there was an edit made to the phrase, “May the force be with you.” The original phrase was, “May the force of others be with you.”

He stressed the importance of putting the force of others back in the formula of finding happiness and meaningful life. For example, suicides are occurring at higher rates for soldiers returning home, in part because they lost “the others” who had shared traumatizing experiences and brought them a deep sense of belonging.

The overwhelming takeaway from Shawn Achor today was the importance of interconnectedness. As people became more positive, more connections were made. And happiness is a choice.

“If we’re trying to achieve happiness and success by ourselves, we can’t get there,” Shawn said. “We can go further together and enjoy the experience.”

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Erin Miller
Erin Miller is the VP of People at TransLoc Inc., a Ford Smart Mobility Company.