How to be happy: keep learning

07 September 2016

By Pan Macmillan

John Gordon, founder of the brilliant how to: Academy on literally going back to school. He shares his tips on how staying curious and learning from the best can lead to happiness. 

Would you believe me if I told you that you could change the structure of your brain to make yourself happier? That it is possible to harness stress to make yourself more engaged and productive in your work? That these things are made possible simply by learning to think in a certain way?

These are the kinds of ideas presented and explained at the how to: Academy. Each week, we invite speakers from all over the world to talk about psychology, politics, economics, history, business, culture and advise on personal development. They come from Ivy League universities and international organisations, lead businesses and government departments, and they are the leaders in their fields. Whatever their expertise, each speaker’s passion for their subject is infectious.

Whether the audience is curious to learn how to speak in public, make a great presentation, write better copy, or even to ‘re-wire’ their brains to make themselves happier and more productive, they leave with glint of inspiration in their eyes. They converse enthusiastically with each other as they exit, try to catch the speaker for one last question, or jot down thoughts on notepads that rapidly become short on space. We can see the excitement that they experience as a result of practicing a new skill or understanding a novel concept.  As members of the audience ourselves, we feel the same sense of enjoyment as we learn things that will improve our own lives.

Our suggestion, then, for how to be happy, is to keep learning. From grand scientific theories to tips for improving your self-confidence, fresh knowledge is powerful and deeply satisfying. So keep gathering information, ideas and skills. Put them into practice, build your own expertise and increase your potential in your life and career. In producing how to: Academy books, we aim to encapsulate the delight and excitement of our events and workshops into a series that you can pick up and carry with you. We hope you enjoy them.

Three tips on how to speak with confidence in public

1. How to sit
Uncross your legs and plant both feet on the ground in front of you. Imagine there is a string pulling up to the sky from the crown of your head. Own you space!

2. What do I do with my hands?
Imagine big balloons under your armpits to help fill and own the space to the side of you. Keep them moving and use them to illustrate and orchestrate everything you say.

3. Telling the story
Who are the characters in your story? You are the narrator and the protagonist. But who are the other characters? Who are the goodies, the baddies, the heroes, the villians?

Get more tips

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It starts with the thinking before the writing, and how to create the all-important Brief. Then it takes you step-by-step from how to write a headline to how to get the response you want from your reader. With examples at every stage, and explanations based on both the author's 25 years' experience and recent scientific research, this book will help hone your skills - whether you're writing websites or press ads, e-zines or direct mail, brochures or blogs, posters or landing pages, emails or white papers.

Read the first chapter


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A single online search can generate millions of website results but people rarely bother to look past the first results page. how to: get your website noticed will teach you how to boost your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), to read web analytics like a salesman, to scale what is working, remove what isn't, and look at your website as a business asset.

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