The Intelligent Workplace

The Intelligent Workplace

Episode 15

A “Happiness Hacker” seeking happiness in a scheduled life

Penny Locaso
Founder & CEO, BKindred

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Penny Locaso isn’t afraid to shake things up and go all in on what she believes in. She launched BKindred in 2015 and turned her life upside down in doing so. She quit a successful career as an executive, called time on an 18 year relationship and relocated her family across the country. She was searching for happiness and wouldn’t quit until she found it!
 
Bkindred aims to skill 10 million humans on how to future-proof their happiness by 2025. Penny Locaso, the world’s first happiness hacker, is at the helm to make sure it happens.
 
As a champion of diversity, Penny partners with global organisations to humanize the future. She is also an advocate for fearlessness and once presented a keynote speech in her bathing suit!
 
Penny believes in the power of human connection, and she practices what she preaches. She invited me to her home to record this interview and share her thoughts on Happiness Hacking!

Chris:                    

Welcome to the Intelligence Workplace Penny Lacaso.

Penny:                 

Thank you so much for having me.

Chris:                    

It is wonderful to have you on. How did I go? Did I nail the summary of your past?

Penny:                 

It’s really interesting when people read that stuff out. It’s humbling, but at the same time it always feels to me like it’s someone else’s story. Because I think when you live it you’re so in it that you don’t … It dulls the complexity of what it was.

Chris:                    

Yeah I didn’t want to [inaudible] over the fact that it was a massive change in your life.

Penny:                 

No. And I think four, five years down the track it’s really interesting how that’s just become my normal.

Chris:                    

Yeah no fair enough. I was looking through all of your background the other day and you had been recommended to me as a guest and the first thing I saw about you was your video on YouTube titled F Success. And as soon as I saw that I knew I’ve got to sit down with this lady. Just got to meet her.

Penny:                 

What’s fascinating about that video was, that video was done when I first started Be Kindred. And so that was my first for way into public speaking in a more formalized way. That format was all setup by a guy who’s now my keynote coach, John Jau, who’s the curator of TedX Melbourne. And so I got asked to go into that program and develop a TedX style talk and asked what I would do it about. And that was probably one of the most uncomfortable things that I had done up until that point in time because the story in that video was so raw. But a hugely powerful one.

Penny:                 

What’s interesting is, live you’ve just said, it still resonates some four years down the track.

Chris:                    

Yeah. Was it liberating or was it petrifying to make that big decision to come all the way back over here from Perth back to Melbourne. Because you were pursuing happiness weren’t you?

Penny:                 

Yeah. What happened was … It’s funny, people always go, “Oh was it a light bulb moment?” And I always say, “No it was more like a dimmer that gradually got turned up over time.” And I think what happens is that there are things in our lives that are often always there but we choose to ignore them. Or we’re unconscious to them. And then what happens is, something shifts within us and there’s an awareness and we just start to notice things that aren’t in alignment. For me, I ticked every box in terms of success, what the societal definition of success that we’re lead to believe will make us happy. And I was 39 and I was sitting there going, “I’ve ticked all these boxes. I’ve got everything I could’ve ever imagined I would need at this age. And I’m not fulfilled.” I wasn’t miserable but I’m like, “Is this it?”

Penny:                 

And so when I actually sat back and said, “Well what does happiness look like for me? And success on my terms, not influenced by external factors.” I realized that happiness for me was not found in any of the material or egotistical things that I created, it was actually found in the things that didn’t actually cost money. Things like human connection, experiences, positively impacting the lives of others and being present. And when I came to that realization, I was like, these are all the things that are being sacrificed by the life that I currently have. And that was what created the flip. And so to your point, was it uncomfortable? It was excruciating turning all of that stuff upside down within a seven month period, but it was equally liberating. Because it was like resetting the foundations of your life.

Penny:                 

When I say reset, it was like creating a blank canvas for all the things that you’ve always wanted to do or be, but never actually been brave enough to create the space for. And so I say to people now, “Whilst it seems like insanity, it actually contained the pain of the disruption.” Even though it was massive doing it all at once, it meant that I wasn’t sort of sitting in the pain of significant change like that for three years because I did one thing at a time. It contained the pain.

Chris:                    

I guess it just shows that you were very very serious about your pursuit of happiness.

Penny:                 

I was. And I look back now and I get goosebumps because I just think to myself, those decisions, whilst they were so massive, I look back now and I just go, “I am so grateful that I was courageous enough to do it.” Because I say now to my mum all the time, “Know that if I die tomorrow, I die completely happy.” Even if I die at the age of 43, which is what I am now, I feel like I’m living the happiness version of me.

Chris:                    

I’ve literally met you 15 minutes ago, but I can see in your eyes that you’ve got a smile in your eyes and the Labrador that’s falling asleep at our feet here right now is just a great sign that you’re in a pretty decent place. So your company, Be Kindred, it aims to provide real world education that amplifies human potential in the age of artificial intelligence. But it’s also about inclusion and mental health as well. Why do you feel this is so important right now?

Penny:                 

I think every single person … When I speak in front of thousands of people, every time I ask, “Who in this room has never been touched by anxiety or doesn’t know someone that suffered with anxiety or depression?” No one puts their hand up. No one. Why’s it so important now, because we are experiencing an anxiety epidemic. It is so abessive in our society and it’s not just in Australia, it’s global. Especially in countries that are highly connected. I am extremely concerned as a parent of a nine year old, when consistently parents come up to me and say, “My eight year old is suffering from anxiety. My 15 year old doesn’t come out of his room. My 18 year old games all day.” I don’t want my son to grow up in a world where anxiety is the norm and people are not coping. And I’m extremely concerned about the next generation because the anxiety levels in them are the highest we’ve ever seen, as are the suicide rates.

Penny:                 

And what goes on in my mind as a parent is, if these kids are feeling that way when they’re fully supported financially, emotionally, how is it going to be when they have to go out and support themselves, if they don’t have the foundational skills to be able to deal with life. And so I’m extremely passionate because I’m extremely disturbed by what I’m seeing and I think that if we help people inter generationally, not just adults, but all the way through to children. If we help people learn some, what I call skill, intentional adaptability, some foundational skills, I actually think we can make the world more mentally well. And I think we can help people self regulate around technology so that they aren’t over stimulated, their brains aren’t overactive and anxiety doesn’t have to be the norm.

Chris:                    

As a father of two, I’m absolutely hearing you. And it scares the proverbial out of me, what we’re bringing these kids into these days. You mentioned then intentional adaptability. Can you explain that a little bit for me?

Penny:                 

My background, I’ve worked in change for over 20 years, that’s my sort of passion and my skill set. And I’m really passionate about humans and human potential and human connection. And so when I started my own company, I had no idea what I was doing with be Kindred. I was just like, I’m just going to try some stuff and see what sticks.

Chris:                    

Isn’t that the Ozzie way? I’ll have a crack.

Penny:                 

Absolutely have a crack. And it’s so interesting to me because coming from a corporate background, you don’t experiment. You don’t experiment because that sets you up potentially to fail. But now everything I do is an experimentation. What happened was, I spent two years change in bite size pieces because what I realized is, a lot of people wanted to be able to make the changes that I’d made, but didn’t have the confidence or the courage to do that. And after spending two years doing that, I became really interested in terms of what I was hearing in my work with thousands around how AI and tech was impacting how we work and live, our mental health, I think equally how it was distracting us in terms of our ability to actually be able to truly innovate and do deep focused work. And the more I went down and looked at where AI and tech was at, the more concerned I became in terms of what skills would people need to be able to effectively navigate the pace and scale of change and be able to stay mentally well and be able to realize their potential, all that untapped potential that so many of us have that doesn’t get unlocked.

Penny:                 

And so I started doing a lot of research and I came across an article out of Harvard, and it spoke about this concept of an AQ, an adaptability quotient. And it basically said, this is kind of the next big thing, it’s more important than EQ and IQ in the context of the exponential growth in tech. And equally it said that it was the new competitive advantage. And I was like, “This makes a lot of sense to me.” This skill in adaptability, I think that’s kind of what I do. And then I was like, “Okay, but adaptability alone based on the observations in my work, is problematic.” Especially when that adaptability it being motivated or driven by someone else’s intentions. And you only need to look at how we’ve adapted to the iPhone as an example of that, and a by product of that adaptation when it’s been unconscious, has now created a whole host of issues in terms of mental health and addiction.

Penny:                 

So I was like, “Okay, adaptability as a quotient on its own is not enough. What if we could go out and create intentional adaptability? What if we could help people bring meaning and consciousness to the forefront of their decision making and use that as a basis to adapt?”

Penny:                 

And I was like, “Okay, if that’s what I want to do, what would that look like in terms of how would an individual who was highly intentionally adaptable, how would they sharpen everyday? What behaviors would they display on a regular basis? How would you measure that in an assessment? And then how would you teach people to get better at those behaviors?”

Penny:                 

And basically that was my crazy idea and that was what I built. And so what we built was a model which you can find on bekindred.com, which speaks about intentional adaptability. We believe the foundations of intentional adaptability lie in three core skills. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re 16 or whether you’re 50, these apply. The first skill is, we teach people how to focus in a world that’s designed to distract them and how to create the space for more of what matters in a world where people tell us they have no space, they have no time, they’re too busy. The second thing we do is we teach people how to be courageous and how to reframe their mindset around fear and use fear and failure as levers to create the change that they want in their lives and the change they want to see in the world and their work. And then the third component is, we teach people how to be curious.

Penny:                 

Which is fascinating to me. It’s an innately human skill. Anyone who has got children knows how curious they are when they’re small. But the way we’ve designed society is basically bash curiosity [crosstalk]

Chris:                    

Absolutely yeah.

Penny:                 

We teach curiosity as the state of being a way of showing up in the everyday and how to have more curious conversations, how to ask more questions in meetings rather than make statements of opinions. And it’s really fascinating because we’ve had people tell us, executives tell us in our programing, “I’m too busy to be curious.” And so we now help them look at curiosity as something you do in the everyday, not something you do in your space time, of which they tell us they have none.

Chris:                    

What’s the age groups that you’re dealing with in terms of your clientele? In my head I’m thinking, someone like me, I’m 43 years old, I could do with those skills for sure. But then I sort of think, my children as well. And I’m sort of thinking they can certainly do with some of those skills because they are living in this fast pace world. Their lives are complex. There’s lots of noise around them. It’s not like when we grew up in the 70s and 80’s where you got bored and you could switch off and you went and did different things. They don’t have down time. Where are you pitching it? Because I can see it right across that broad spectrum of ages.

Penny:                 

Yeah so what’s really interesting, my background is obviously large corporations. And so my strategy, selfishly, and I’m always very transparent, this is was an experiment, if I could go into corporates, I knew corporations would pay for this and it meant that I then had a test bed to be able to validate the experiment and the hypothesis, really prove it out solidly, do it in a way that was financially viable and then use that basis to be able to help the people who need it most who could never be able to afford to pay. That was where we started, with large corporations. We only started piloting, sort of experimenting with this concept really at the start of this year. And so what happened was fascinating because we had companies like KPMG, Deloitte, Merca, National Australia Bank which is one of the biggest banks in Australia. And then what was really fascinating, they all came on board as a pilot, Kerry Grammar, which is one of the top grammar schools here in Melbourne said, “We’ll get on board and we’ll give you some students around the ages of 17, but we also want you to teach teachers and we want you to put them both in the same classroom.”

Penny:                 

And I was like, “Bring it. This is brilliant.” And so what I think is magical about that is the inter generational learning, because we ran the curiosity challenge with them and curiosity looks very different from a child as it does from an adult. But that cross pollination of curiosity was unbelievable in terms of how that evolved the learning experience. Whilst we started with corporations, I’m now in discussions … Just today one of the top business universities in Singapore saw me speak last week in San Francisco and they’re like, “I want to put all of my students through intentional adaptability assessment. What would that look like?”

Penny:                 

We’re in conversations at the moment with Adelaide University to actually run it as part of their undergraduate programing as a subject for students, but again they want to put faculty in the same classroom. So we would be teaching undergrads and faculty at the same time. Who are we targeting? To me, basically I will work with anyone that values what we do and is willing to work alongside us to build out something that is highly impactful and sustainable in terms of helping people effectively navigate the pace and scale of change.

Chris:                    

Very good. As I said, I was doing some research and I loved your article from last year that was talking about the value of boredom in our lives. Again, I feel like the next generation, they’re not going to value it at all because they never really get the chance to be bored. But having said that, I feel like my life is heading that way. I’m 43 years old, juggling work and home life, I’m never too far from a computer or a smartphone, I’m always contactable. I want some boredom back in my life. How do I get it?

Penny:                 

It’s a choice.

Chris:                    

It’s a choice is it?

Penny:                 

It’s a choice. And I always say, change is a choice. And so part of what we teach in intentional adaptability is how to create the space for nothing. Which is so sad isn’t it? Just the space for stillness. And I’m not talking about … Don’t get me wrong, mindfulness is an amazing thing, I practice meditation. But what I’ve realized is, it’s not for everyone, it doesn’t work for everyone. And what your mindfulness can look like doesn’t have to be sitting on a yoga mat in zen with your fingers. Really, mindfulness is just sitting in the stillness, alone with your own thoughts. And so what that could look like when we teach how do you get more stillness, I’d say leave your phone at home and go and walk your dog. That could be mindfulness for you, that could be boredom for you, that could be stillness for you.

Penny:                 

Go and sit in the park and leave your phone at home. Don’t take any technology. Yeah, or just sit on your sofa and do nothing. And so we teach people how to do this in 10 minute increments, and what I find fascinating is … Like I said, it’s a choice. You can create the space. People choose not to do it. People want to stay. We talk about the busy epidemic. I’ve had a whole talk on the busy epidemic. Busy is an epidemic. Busy, basically has become a default word in how we respond to how are you.

Chris:                    

Yeah. I’m so busy.

Penny:                 

And the thing is, busy perpetuates busy. So the more you say it, the more your mind believes you are busy. And it’s a lot harder to get off that hamster wheel and create space. But what I also believe firmly is that people are comfortable in busy. Because even if your busy is not allowing you to do the things you want to do and create high impact, and even if you’re busy sending an email all day, it’s more comfortable than sitting there alone with yourself and actually looking inwards and actually exploring how you’re really feeling and whether or not you’re truly happy and what change is required to shift you to where you want to be. That’s the freaking hard work. And that’s why so many people are quite happy, even though it makes them miserable, to staying busy.

Chris:                    

I love it when I emailed you and you get an automatic reply from you, words to the effect of, I’m maximizing the effectiveness in my day so I’m not going to answer emails right away. I think that’s a great thing. I think I also read some stuff around you talking about how we’re always distracted. I’m terrible. I’m like Dory from finding Nemo. I get distracted so easily. And I must have been reading your article around that while I was also typing, then my phone was pinging off, then something else would be coming up on the screen. I was thinking, you’re so right. I just live such a distracted life. I need to start to turn things off.

Penny:                 

It’s problematic because you’re not realizing your potential. There is so much research out there around multi-tasking does not make you more effective, it actually diminishes your productivity, it actually diminishes the quality of your work. The thing with distraction, I’m a huge advocate and I talk about him all the time of Cal Newport, who’s a millennial who’s written three best selling books and never had a social media account. And how first book that I read was Deep Work. And seriously it was like a bible to me, it changed my life. And he talks about how we have wired a whole generation to operate in nothing but a constant set of distraction.

Penny:                 

Our neural pathways now seek out distraction. We don’t want to sit in the stillness. Our brain won’t allow us to anymore. And so the only way to stop that is to disrupt these neural pathways and create new ones. And that’s why we teach people to sit in the pain, even though it’s really hard, of boredom. You can absolutely do it, it’s just really hard work.

Chris:                    

Yeah it is.

Penny:                 

But I would say the pain of sitting in distraction for the rest of your life, is a life unrealized.

Chris:                    

That’s a good way of looking at it. I mentioned in the opener that you’re a happiness hacker, and that’s actually your title on LinkedIn too. What exactly does that mean?

Penny:                 

I claim to be the world’s first and I reckon I am because I made it up.

Chris:                    

Yeah. I couldn’t find it anywhere so I’m going to give it to you.

Penny:                 

I made it up. And this is what I always say to people, I always use it as an intro. This is the beauty of the era that we now find ourselves in. You have access to resources and connections that no other generation has had, and so you can actually be whatever the fuck you want. You really can. And if it doesn’t exist, you can make it up. And I’m evidence of that. I was like, “Bugger it. I’m just going to make people happy, so what would be a good title associated with that?” And so for me, when I use the word happiness hacking, for me it’s about finding small things, behavioral changes or mindset shifts in the everyday that will enable me to be just more happy.

Penny:                 

Yeah. And like I say, I don’t see happiness as a goal … The other thing I think that’s perhaps a little bit flawed in our society, we’re so orientated toward the goal and the big thing, and then we think when we get there we’ll be happy. But what I have learned through my happiness hacking is that if you can just find the things that make you happy in the everyday, the joy in the everyday, and bring more of that in, happiness is not a goal, it’s just a state of being.

Chris:                    

Yeah. These days-

Penny:                 

Again, it’s stuff that’s free and simple. Most nights my son and I, who’s nine, he’s obsessed with soccer, we go to the park across the road. I take my beautiful black Labrador, she runs around and plays with the other dogs, and he and I do goals. We kick goals. It’s being out in nature hiking with my partner, or it’s sitting around this table here which seats 10, on a Sunday, like we did last week with 10 amazing random strangers and having a roast dinner. Those are the things that make me happy.

Chris:                    

Nice. As a happiness hacker, I’m just wondering about your corporate clients, do you get to the point where you’re dealing with some of them that are very experienced business people that have just completely forgotten how to be happy?

Penny:                 

Yes.

Chris:                    

What do you do with them?

Penny:                 

I read this statement the other day and I loved it, and I think that the opportunity we have with people who are in that space is, it’s about helping people let go of this feeling of, or this desire to be an expert and helping them realize the tension and the beauty that lies in experimentation. And so I kind of think of this almost like a process of unlearning. And we hear a lot about unlearning now. I think that you can’t help people change unless you create the space for change. And in a world where everyone is busy, what I see with a lot of large organizations is that they’re just pouring millions and millions of dollars into more learning, how do we get people up to pace with all the tech and blah blah blah. And I see it like filling a full pond.

Penny:                 

It’s like, a lot of companies have come to me and said, ‘We’ve introduced mindfulness. We’ve spent millions on it, but nothing is getting any better. People are still overwhelmed and anxious.”

Penny:                 

Again, filling a full pond. If you’re not taking anything away, whatever learning you put in is just going to pour out the top. And so the way that we deal with these people that you speak of is, we try and help them look at ways to create space. How do you create space? How do you unlearn this need to be an expert and realize that the real power in the context of skills for the future lies in experimentation.

Chris:                    

That’s pretty cool yeah. Do you feel like we’re maybe at a stage where we need to inject happiness into the working lives of these people just to insure that we’re protecting them from future mental health issues and how might we do that?

Penny:                 

I think the responsibility is two fold. I think there is a responsibility on the individual to know that they’ve got a problem, to be aware that they’ve got a problem and to look at what skills would be most helpful for them to deal with that problem.

Chris:                    

Because there’s no magic wand that we can just help everybody.

Penny:                 

There is no magic wand. And the other thing that I would say … I’m reading a brilliant book at the moment which talks about how so many drugs for anxiety and depression actually don’t help people at all. And I’m not talking about every case, but basically how a lot of it actually causes more problems than it delivers benefit. I think we have become … Anxiety and depression makes a lot of money for a lot of people and I think we have too easily given prescriptions to people. I’ve got that many friends that have told me that they’ve gone to a doctor and the first thing the doctor does when they tell them they’re anxious or they’re depressed, is basically gives them a script. I think that’s a problem.

Penny:                 

And I’m not saying that there are people out there who are not clinically depressed or where there is not a chemical imbalance, I am saying from the work that I do and what I observe, if we could help people learn certain skills, I actually think a lot of them would’ve need medication. And I think that the medication is too easy of a choice.

Chris:                    

Yeah, there’s other things you can do, as you said before the meditation, the mindfulness or just enjoying life.

Penny:                 

We don’t even try. And so I think to your point, there is a responsibility on the individual to seek out alternative help just to medication because I think that there’s a lot of stuff out there. The other thing, i think there is a responsibility on organizations. And I’m starting to now work in this space as an advisor, to actually … Most organizations now know that they have an unhappy workforce. Most organizations now know that anxiety and depression in the professional world in an epidemic. And so I think we have to look at, one, how we skill the individual. But I think the organization needs to look at the environment that they’re creating and how that environment is impacting people’s happiness and mental health.

Penny:                 

And when I say the environment, it’s the culture of the organization, but equally I would argue the construct of the traditional organization, how we’ve constructed it. Which is often driven by shareholder returns, financial gains as the number one priority. And all of the incentives for people within that organization are linked back to that as the priority. I think as long as money is the motivator, we are probably going to continue to create environments that do not make people happy and impact their mental health.

Chris:                    

On this podcast, I started it so that I could learn along with the listeners. Every episode I’m learning something different, whether it be about tech or in this case today about happiness. I like to every now and then, put it back on my guest, just to ask them what I can do as a 43 year old man in the workplace to get better or to help other people. I go back into the office tomorrow, what are some of the things that I can do when I walk in that door to either spread happiness or help people find their own happiness? Quick wins. That’s what I want. Quick wins.

Penny:                 

Yeah. You’ve got children, we’ve spoke about this before. Children don’t listen to what you say, they watch what you do.

Chris:                    

They don’t listen to what we say.

Penny:                 

You know this, I know this. And I’ve learned this, my son has been one of the best experiments in this space for what I do with my work. And so what I’ve realized is, if I role model what I want him to do with tech, it’s amazing how it shifts things. And so I would ask you, what would you do to role model how you use tech as a leader, as an example in your organization. It might be as simple as turning your phone off for blocks of time during the day and actually having human conversations and expressing a genuine interest in someone else. It would perhaps be not using the word busy and removing it from your vocabulary for a whole week.

Penny:                 

I did this about 18 months ago. I don’t use the word busy anymore.

Chris:                    

What did you change-

Penny:                 

I now use positively engaged and its fundamentally shifted the conversations that I have.

Chris:                    

So I say to you, hello Penny, how are you?

Penny:                 

And I say I’m positively engaged. And then your mouth drops because you’re expecting me to say busy and I turn around and say, “My life is full, but I’m doing things that I love.”

Chris:                    

I like that.

Penny:                 

And then you say, “What the hell are you doing? Because how do I get some of that?” Its fundamentally shifted the conversations that I have. And I basically say back to you, use it. Steal the word. Stop using busy. Just do it for one week. Use positively engaged and watch what happens. And if you find yourself using it and you’re calling bullshit on yourself because you’re not positively engaged, then you should be asking yourself what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

Chris:                    

That’s brilliant. I feel like I need to pay you today for the chat that we’re having. I feel like I should be lying on the sofa or something.

Penny:                 

The other thing I would encourage, and this thing pissing me off to no end, I cannot stand that people go into meetings with their technology, with their mobile phone. And they sit there and they check their phone while they’re in a meeting. You are basically saying to the people in that room, “I’d rather be somewhere else.” I honestly believe that opportunity lies at the other end of human connection. And if people have created the space to sit down and have a conversation to solve a problem in a work environment, the least we can do is be present and in the room. Leave your freaking phone somewhere else.

Chris:                    

And your laptop. What about if we just started to hand write notes again. That’s what I still do.

Penny:                 

But you know when you hand write notes, it’s actually goes into your brain much more effectively. And so I would say, unless you’re a doctor saving lives when you are on call which is what I’ve found in corporate world, is no one, leave your phone. Take your tech out of the room and be present and in the moment. I would argue that you will find one, you’re more productive. Two, you’re less distracted so it’s starting to reprogram those neurons. And you’re probably going to be much more effective at the problems that you solve and how you contribute to those conversations and how that impacts your work environment. And equally how it makes your peers feel.

Chris:                    

Being the fact that I work for a tech company, and this is meant to be a tech thought leadership podcast, [inaudible] talk about the positive things about tech. We haven’t really done a great job of that today.

Penny:                 

I can give you some amazing tech that amplifies human potential.

Chris:                    

I was just wondering yeah, if tech is part of the problem, will tech be part of the solution as well?

Penny:                 

Absolutely. I think, again, we need to look at how we intentionally create technology. There’s huge ethical debates going on at the moment, but we know ethically … The ethics behind tech is still highly unregulated. But there is some brilliant tech out there that’s starting to play in this space. It’s funny, I just posted on LinkedIn, I do a happiness hack on LinkedIn every Monday. Really simple stuff like you just asked for, that can help make a shift. And one of my favorite pieces of tech is an app called Freedom. And basically for those people who suffer from distraction, who can’t help themselves, which is most of us now, Freedom gives you the ability to lock yourself out of distractions for periods of time.

Chris:                    

That would be good for me I think.

Penny:                 

And so, I think it cost me $100 for the year. My gosh, it paid itself off within a day I reckon. And so what I do, I use Freedom, I activate it and basically I will block myself out from all distractions from email, through to social media, whatever it is. I block myself out of it for a period of an hour, an hour and a half each day. And then that time is spent focusing on deep focused work. I love it.

Chris:                    

That’s awesome.

Penny:                 

Yeah. That’s just one example. There is heaps of tech out there. I met with an amazing doctor last week in San Francisco and she’s a, I think it’s trans humanist, and so all of the work that they are doing in technology and through MRI’s, through sensory devices all over humans, which I love, but this is about how they can use those sensory devices to help people be happier and more mentally well in their life. That data provides insight that then enables them to look at ways, using technology, to make people more mentally healthy and well. There’s heaps of it out there. The problem is that so much tech now is designed for financial gain, which often comes at the compromise of humanity.

Penny:                 

And so I actually think that we need to flip and I think that’s there’s got to be some way of vetting tech to say, “Is this tech for the sake of tech or is this tech that’s actually going to solve a real problem in our society and going to add real value to the future of humans?” And I don’t think we ask those questions enough.

Chris:                    

You talked about the app that sort of blocks everything out and you can sort of concentrate. How would that work in a modern workplace? Do you think you could sort of implement that in some ways or do you think it would get in the way a bit too much?

Penny:                 

In the way of what? You checking your email?

Chris:                    

Well I’m just wondering if you put it across, you know, you got 20 people in your office and you’re locking them out of all that stuff. Is that then stopping them from them communicating or is it going to maybe make them turn around and make them talk to each other?

Penny:                 

I would argue it would make them talk to each other and I would argue it would create the space for them to do much more high impact work. Focused, dedicated work on stuff that’s going to fundamentally shift the dial. I would argue, if people are sitting there with their email open all day and checking their phone, they’re not doing highly productive work. Email is by no means a measure of your productivity. Email is reactive.

Chris:                    

Yeah sure it. Absolutely.

Penny:                 

If you’re sitting there checking email all day, if I had someone working for me that was responding to email all day and on it every two seconds, I’d be questioning whether they understood what their priorities are.

Chris:                    

That’s fair cool. Fair cool. I’m just wondering whether [inaudible] back into the office next week and I have a little basket with me for everybody’s phones to go in. Perhaps maybe that could be a way to change.

Penny:                 

The thing is, you don’t have to take everything away. All I want to do is help people learn self regulation, and at the moment we have no self regulation because we’ve introduced all this tech and then create an addiction, and now we’re trying to back pedal to help people to disconnect because we realized it’s a problem. I’d just say small changes. Maybe it’s Friday mornings you have tech free mornings in the office for an hour, an hour and a half. And you basically say it’s either for conversations around problem solving or for human connection. How good would that be?

Chris:                    

We’re doing something similar at work at the moment. We’ve got dogs in the office on a Friday. That changes people’s behavior and maybe gets more conversations going. I like those sorts of ideas that you can really shake up the work environment a bit and try new things and just get talking to each other again.

Penny:                 

I think anything that gets people talking to each other more often is really powerful. And I speak about this quite often because what we are seeing, and it’s directly linked to the mental health issues is that, human connection is what we are wired for. It used to part of our survival. If you weren’t humanly connected to your tribe, you’d be left isolated which meant that you wouldn’t survive. And what I now believe is that the human connection is a fundamental skill for the future, and we are doing it less than we’ve ever done it. And so the less that we … Especially the next generation. They’re not practicing human connection like any generation that’s come before them. And that’s why, I think, we’ve got so many challenges in terms of their ability to be resilient and mentally well.

Penny:                 

And if I explain this I say, the less that you humanly connect or practice this skill, the less you can read body language as effectively as someone who does it all the time. Which means that you’re less effective at being able to empathize with another person if you can’t read them the way that others used to or other generations. You’re less better at reading body language, you’re less better at empathizing, which means you’re less likely to have difficult conversations because it makes you feel really uncomfortable because it’s not something that’s normal for you. And the less likely you are to have difficult conversations, the less likely you are to build resilience, because you’re not working through those hard problems.

Penny:                 

And so it’s kind of like this on flow effect of just by not humanly connecting … If you’re opting every time for a digital connection over a human connection, when a human connection is available to you, I think that’s a problem.

Chris:                    

Yeah. Absolutely. The kids hey. The kids.

Penny:                 

Yeah. I think yeah the kids. But I think, to be honest, from what I see, the adults are just as bad.

Chris:                    

Going that way.

Penny:                 

Yeah. And the worst part is that for the adults, we know what it’s like when we’re more humanly connected. We remember the benefits and the joy of human connection. But again, we’ve wired ourselves to behave fundamentally differently even though we know that human connection is what makes us happier.

Chris:                    

Yeah. And its changed so quickly in the last 15 years. You used to go to the pub and you’d talk to your friends on a Friday night at the pub, but now everybody has got a screen and they’re messaging.

Penny:                 

Yeah, absolutely. The other thing that blows me away about this space, and again I share this and ask people when I talk, is hobbies. Where did hobbies go? And so when I say I ask, basically you ask people to put their hands up in a room if they’ve got a hobby. And seriously it’s not many people.

Chris:                    

Too busy for one is it?

Penny:                 

Too busy for a hobby. And then when people put their hands up and I ask them what’s your hobby? A lot of people will turn around and go, “Oh hanging out with friends.” That’s not a hobby. That’s socialization. I’m saying what do you do where you’re crafting something, where you’re being creative? What’s that thing that you consistently do in that space that’s kind of a passion with no real end outcome. Is it playing guitar? Is it crafting something in a garage? Is it fixing things? Most people-

Penny:                 

That’s probably like a meditation for you as well.

Chris:                    

Absolutely. I’ve learned a lot here today. Can you just wrap it up for me? Can you just give me the three main points of the intentional adaptability so it sticks into this brain of mine.

Penny:                 

If you want to intentionally adapt, the three things that you really want to hone skill on are, looking at ways to be able to focus in a world that’s now designed to distract you. Looking at little acts of micro-bravery in the everyday, small things that scare you that will enable you to build your courage and shift your mindset around fear and failure. And the third one is, look at curiosity as a state of being. Just challenge yourself to say, “What if I didn’t make a statement in this situation? What if I asked another question?”

Chris:                    

Beautiful work.

Penny:                 

And I’ll leave it with that.

Chris:                    

What I’m hearing from you is that the next time that I present at a work function, I should do it in my Speedo. Maybe not.

Penny:                 

I’d only do it once. And know that it’s extremely impactful if it’s attached to helping people make a shift. But I would never do it again.

Chris:                    

Penny Lacaso. Happiness hacker. Thank you very much for joining me today.

Penny:                 

Thanks so much Chris.

Chris:                    

Cheers.

Chris:                    

Thanks for joining me on the Intelligent Workplace podcast, brought to you by LiveTiles. If you have any feedback or want to suggest a guest for a future show, email podcast@livetiles.nyc. Thanks for listening. I’ll catch you next time.

 

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