Happy by Derren Brown - Book Review - Workplace

Happy by Derren Brown – Book Review

Author since:
October, 2015
61 blog posts

I have watched Derren Brown on the television and always thought “how does he do that?” and never worked it out. Now I have read this book I am still thinking “ How does he do that”?  To change from being a… Mentalist and illusionist … to a serious author of what is a really intriguing book. I have found myself asking quite a few people if they have read Happy by Derren Brown. I can’t find anyone who has which is a shame as I  like to talk to someone else who has read the book and another opinion on Happy.

Let’s get straight to it, I believe that Derren’s latest book could be truly life-changing. There’s very little about magic or illusion in here and when it arrived I opened the package and was a bit taken aback by its size 500+ pages. It is a commentary on the ancient Greek and Roman philosophy of Stoicism, and how we might usefully and practically apply it to our own lives in order to help bring about that most elusive of goals: Happiness.

Derren Brown’s success is in taking the teachings of Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and the other Stoics, and making them understandable today. His method for doing this (the “trick,” if you will) gets you to understand that your life is a story; one that we tell ourselves about ourselves, and one which ultimately shapes our self-perceptions and worldviews. He says we have a choice of what we tell ourselves and what we believe in and so what we take notice of and the story of our life. This is what makes us happy or unhappy.

Self-help books are causing more harm than good

He says that all the self-help books are actually causing harm as they are telling us to set goals, think positively be strong minded and if you can’t-do that you fail. We aren’t in control of it and trying to have control is actually counterproductive. Many of the principles which can be found in the Stoic philosophy are very simple, it is the execution that is hard. Brown explains in great detail how supposedly negative events themselves rarely hurt us; it is usually our beliefs, feelings, or judgments concerning those events which do. If you have ever read or watched Daniel Kahneman who talks about our lives being shaped by memories, this part reminded me of him.

The book dwells on fact that material goods, money, and other immediate pleasures rarely bring true lasting happiness. Brown talks about the reasons why this is, mentioning a great deal of scientific research in addition to quoting other authors on the subject of happiness. He also discusses helpful, practical ways in which we can deal with anger, hurt, aggression, addiction, and the ever-present fear of death (the book ends with a section on how to die well?).

The book can also be seen as an attack on the multi-billion dollar industry of self-help and positive thinking. Derren reserves much of his anger for fads such as The Secret, and details extensively how “the power of positive thinking” can actually be harmful to us. Take the well-known example of the U.S. airman captured by enemy forces during the Vietnam War. Many of the men who did not survive their brutal captivity were optimists by nature, and insisted on thinking positively: “We’ll be out by Christmas…OK, we’ll be out by the 4th of July…OK, we’ll be out by Thanksgiving…” When holiday after holiday rolled around and they found themselves to be still incarcerated, many of these POWs began to literally curl up and die…whereas the officer who fell back upon the principals of Seneca and the Stoics made it through eight years of hell, ultimately surviving to regain his freedom because all they did was get through each day.

So it is clearly about living on the here and now and not trying to gain external hardware to make yourself happy. It is all down to us and I would say… read the book, give it a go and let us know what you think.

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What makes Workplace unique?

Author since:
December, 2016
33 blog posts

On walking through the door of the Workplace shared office space in Manchester you might be forgiven for thinking that you are in the lobby of a boutique hotel. The decor and warm welcome you receive is much of the same. This is because, unlike other office environments, Workplace has emerged from its owners’ experience in the hospitality industry.

First meeting at the start of their careers, Adrian Stevenson, Louise Pollard and Jane Schofield progressed through the hospitality world. They developed, built and operated a number of hotels before deciding to go it alone and grow the very successful Workplace shared office space. But what made them decide this was the business startup they aspired to build?

Inspired by the uninspiring

In the past, Louise, Adrian and Jane had managed and led developments with someone else holding the purse strings. In 2015, however, they had the opportunity to go it alone. Looking at different business ideas they decided to rent an office space in their home city Manchester to nurture their plans.

Although there was a lot of great office space out there, nothing could offer them the decor, the hospitality and service they felt they needed to inspire their new project. The team decided the serviced office market needed a good dose of inspiration from hospitality industry, and from that moment the unique Workplace brand was launched.

This, unfortunately, wasn’t an easy task. The group had the capital but not the office industry background and few property owners understood the concept they were trying to achieve. Not easily dissuaded, however, Adrian called on John Williams from SpaceInvader design, who had worked on the designs for their previous hotel project, Hotel La Tour in Birmingham. He introduced the group to Helical who own Churchgate House. Helical were and continue to be, incredibly supportive of what they were determined to accomplish.

Adrian talks passionately about developing Workplace. This business, for the team of owners, was not just a remote investment. It was to be a credible brand infused with personality from the owners that percolates through every part of Workplace’s service to its members.

A business for Manchester, by Manchester

Adrian explains that, not only did they intend to spend every day in the space they’d created, they also wanted to make sure that all aspects of the business and support would come from Manchester. Fulfilling this ethos, not only did the team work with local business SpaceInvader to carry out the design, but also Dragonfly for the fit out, Don’t Be Shy to set the brand and support the marketing, Gortons to manage the accounts and Ferguson Business Advisers to support the finance and system’s parts of the business. It was hugely important to the team that this venue was for Manchester, by Manchester.

Their joint mission was to develop a shared workspace with a difference, to change the way people feel about coming to work and to foster a culture of collaboration and exchange to bring out the best in every individual. The difference is visible when you step through the door — when you become a member, you are not just supporting an expansive organisation based in another city or country. You are supporting local businesses, investing in your own future through the Manchester-based owners who take a personal interest in looking after you and your business every step of the way.

Since opening, Workplace has become home to an eclectic group of individuals and enterprises. It allows its members to make use of the space in numerous ways. Some have made it their permanent place of work, others have used it to springboard their own flexible working requirements a few days a month. Some simply use Workplace as a ‘hot office’ as and when they need it.

If people need a shot of inspiration, a work-home away from home, Workplace has it covered. Born from its roots in the hospitality industry, Workplace takes flexible working to a new level and allows professionals to make their shared office space work for them.


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