Character Strengths & Virtues – A Narrative Guide

Wangari MaathaiAcknowledgements:

The image of the cover is of Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Retrieved from

All concepts used have been retrieved from:

Peterson, Christopher; Seligman, Martin E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Oxford: Oxford University PressISBN 0-19-516701-5.

All stories in this document have been collected, edited and referenced by Sheharyar Raza with consultation from Dr. Tayyab Rashid. Each story contains snippets from a multitude of sources as well as original commentary by Sheharyar.


Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence

Louie Schwartzberg captures nature is a time-lapse photographer who spends painstaking hours capturing her most beautiful to share this beauty with others. He has been dedicated to shooting time-lapse photography continuously, 24/7 for over thirty years, documenting natural processes such as the bloom of a flower, the process of aging or a sunset over long periods of time in extremely high quality. His work has received numerous awards including the recent awards for Best Theatrical Program and best Cinematography for his film “Wings of Life”—a documentary featuring the relationship between flowers and their symbiotic pollinators, the bees. He has been an active TED speaker, showcasing his work at several conferences, and his Youtube videos have been viewed over 25 million times.louie-schwartzbergLouie’s work captures the essence of what it means to appreciate beauty, and his work focuses on beauty in natural processes manifesting itself over time. His style of photography is vivid and captivating, and does not fail to inspire. Words can do little justice to his work, which being more than eye-candy leaves one breathless and yearning for a more intimate connection with nature.

louie-schwartzberg-hummingbirdAs someone who has truly dedicated their entire life to documenting and sharing the world around him with others Louis is a moving portrait for the virtue of appreciation of beauty.”

To learn more about Louie Schwartzberg and his work, please visit:



The virtue of bravery is captured by the character of Malala Yousafzai, once a Pakistani school pupil and now the youngest nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize in history. She has done significant work promoting women’s rights and education in the extremely conservative Swat Valley—a region of Pakistan where the Taliban had currently prohibited the education of women. Malala first rose to global prominence when, at the age of 11, she wrote a critical article for the British Broadcasting malala-yousafzaiChannel documenting her life as a girl in the Taliban ruled areas of Pakistan, as well as starring in a slice-of-life documentary about her life in the region. Through her persistent pursuit of her cause, disregarding tremendous risks, she quickly gained prominence in the media. While girls her age still played in the school yard, Malala became the voice of an ideology of freedom from inequality, taking on an opposing ideology backed by the Taliban organization within Pakistan.In October 2012, Malala was shot in the head in by the Taliban while returning home on a school bus. After remaining in critical condition for several weeks, she has now recovered, and in spite the threats she faces, Malala continues on with her quest to gain equal rights for women in Pakistan. Since her recovery, she has created a fund to help educate women and plans to write a book about her experiences. Malala embodies the virtue of bravery, displayed through her continued activism in the face of life-threatening dangers, displaying the trait at capacities far beyond her age.”

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Humans of New York (HONY) began as a project by an unemployed young photographer who walked the streets of New York City taking portraits of strangers and conversing with them. Since the beginning of his project in summer 2010, Brandon has gathered over 5000 portraits of strangers in the New York city, documenting seemingly trivial activities of ‘things that pass us by’ in our everyday lives. His blog also has a following of nearly 1 million users.citizenshipWhat truly makes this project a remarkable display of citizenship is way these photographs are taken and the diversity of stories they tell. As he walks around New York City, Brendon non-discriminately approaches nervous strangers, conversing with them and listening to their story, which he pairs to beautifully taken photographs and posts on his blog. His blog, beyond being an artistic delight, is a symbol of community spirit.

Brendon has also leveraged the popularity of HONY to launch many philanthropic pursuits, rising over $300,000 for the victims of Hurricane Sandy and over $200,000 to fund local public services. Not only does HONY serve as an amazing example of citizenship by itself, but it has also inspired hundreds of similar blogs worldwide from Humans of Lebanon, to Vancouver, New Delhi, Karachi, Paris, Tehran, Singapore and many others.”

To learn more about Humans of New York, please visit:



jonathan-iveMany know Steve Jobs, who lead the tech-giant Apple, but fewer know of Jonathan Ive, the real creative genius behind the much hailed innovation that served as the engine of Apple’s wild success. If you have ever used the iMac, iPhone, iPod, iPad, or other mobile device by Apple, you have experienced the design genius of Jonathan Ive first hand. Recently knighted by the Queen, Ive has won countless awards. He was voted as being the most influential Briton in America and voted on top of a list of the 100 most creative people in business. He is known ubiquitously in technology circles as one of the greatest designers and his work described as “untouchable”. Under the leadership of Steve Jobs, Ive helped revive a financially bleeding Apple company and elevated it to becoming the top mobile technology company in the world. Along the way, Ive’s designs helped transform our perception of phones, computers, tablets, and redefine how we interact with these devices.

Perhaps what’s most striking about Ive’s creativity is a strong sense of underlying values—a focus on freedom of creation unbound by financial or time constraints. Even after years of successful innovations, he remains enthusiastic about being part of the creative process and will likely continue to transform the digital and hardware landscape for many years to come. The work and values of Jonathan Ive exemplify creativity and its best and most influential.”

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From Google to Johns Hopkins was the path Jake Andraka took that lead him to discover the cheapest early detection method for the insidious pancreatic cancer to date. After a close family friend died of pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest of all cancers, 14-year-old Jake Andraka became obsessed with researching more about the illness. His diagnosis and unexpected death only a week later made Jake curious about why doctors were so bad at detecting pancreatic cancer. He did what any curious 14-year-old would do: he Googled pancreatic cancer. What he learned shocked him: in 85% of the total incidences of pancreatic cancer, it is diagnosed at the stage where the survival rate is less than 2%. All current methods for early detection are both expensive and unavailable. He also began to do research on carbon nanotubes, antibodies for detecting cancerous agents in a patient’s blood, and found a paper which listed thousands of substances which were raised in the blood of such patients. Jake’s idea? To go through each and every one of these agents until he found one that suited his purposes.

jake-andrakaHe wrote up a research proposal and fired an email to 200 scientists asking for space and resources he would require to answer his question. Only one lab at Johns Hopkins took the 14 year-old’s theory seriously, willing to give him a chance to test his theory. From there followed painstaking hours of lab work over many months, filled with failures and tears of frustration. Over a year of hard work culminated in a screening method for pancreatic cancer which was 168 times faster, 26,000 times cheaper and over 400 times more sensitive than the current gold standard of detection.

Jake’s story is one that highlights the quintessence of the virtue of curiosity: sensing something in your surroundings, asking a question and being driven with a passion to answer it.”

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Salman Khan is best known today as being the creator of the non-profit organization Khan Academy, whose mission statement is to “provide a free, world-class education for anyone anywhere”. Salman Khan, a Harvard and MIT graduate a former hedge-fund analyst, started out in the education business by making videos on his desktop computer to teach his cousin mathematics. Before he knew it, hundreds of thousands of people began to watch his videos. The more positive feedback he received from around the world, the more videos he wanted to make. This increased to the point where he quit his lucrative day job to create videos full time in hopes that his project may someday be funded by charities. As time went by, however, Salman’s vision of making education freely accessible to everyone began to seem far-fetched: he had a family to support and had begun to dig into his savings. Despite many offers to commercialise his product, however, Salman clung to the idea that education had to be freely accessible to anyone who wished to learn.salman-khanAt around the nine month mark of his unemployment, however, Salman was met with a tremendous breakthrough as he received a single donation of $100,000 from someone who believed in his idea. This followed a cascade of major sponsors such as Google and Microsoft, who lent Salman financial support to continue his project of making videos. Today, Salman operates from a humble yet tremendously influential office in Silicon Valley, where he continues to make videos for a global viewership of nearly three million students and growing.

Salman Khan’s unrelenting perseverance and hard work towards making his dream to provide an equal education for everyone is a great source of inspiration to many and a sends a powerful message of equal-opportunity and fairness to every internet accessible corner of the world.”

To learn more about Salman and his initiative, please visit:


Forgiveness and Mercy

Kelly Putty was like any 16-year-old when one night, she was abducted by two masked men, forced into their car and taken to a faraway location. She was then let out of the car and brutally raped and abused for hours. The physical scars that incident left, however, were not as deep as the emotional ones which left her feeling lonely and ashamed. The two men were caught and received life sentences, which did little good to ease Kelly’s pain.

keylly-puttyThe rape also left Kelly with a sexually transmitted disease which resulted in a cancer and caused her to become unfertile. Now 17, Kelly failed to cope with her condition and continued to feel ashamed. She began her first relationship with Shane, a Christian boy, and began to frequently visit the church with him. In what seemed little less than a miracle, only a year later she became pregnant, and a year after her graduation married Shane.

Her forgiveness and mercy were put to the ultimate test when one morning while praying at the church the pastor told everyone to go pray in front of another person and she came face to face with the mother of one of her attackers. Looking up at her, however, Kelly did not see her son but a mother who was concerned for the life of her son and in that moment, she decided to not only forgave her son but also prayed for him. Today she leads an organization which facilitates adoption of children in third world countries.

Kelly’s forgiveness of a person who inflicted life-altering harm and injustice upon her epitomizes the ability to let go of bitter emotions and sincerely forgive someone who has wronged.”

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Gratitude can come in many forms. Occasionally it is displayed as a raw emotion which spills powerfully and uncontrollably. Such were the circumstances when Steve Harvey, a popular show host, broke down in tears after seeing an old couple during his talk show.steve-harveyThe event was arranged as a birthday surprise for the unsuspecting Steve, a wealthy African American actor, TV personality and best-selling a best-selling author. The Caucasian couple who were put on his screen were people he knew from his past. Upon seeing them however, he instantly began speaking, sobbing the entire time:

“I was 26 years old, struggling. I didn’t have nothing and these people owned a furniture store in Cleveland. They took me in and gave me a contract with my little carpet cleaning company. When I became a comedian at 27, I didn’t have money to travel. They gave me an account at their travel agency and I ran up a bill that was $11,000 just traveling and try to make it. Those people right there, they helped me out!”

He then told the couple that he was rich now, that he wanted to fly them over, and that he had never forgotten what they had done for him. Steve’s spontaneous display of gratitude shows the virtue captured in a raw, organic and inspiring form.”

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We take bathing water for granted, but things are different for those living in Africa and are faced with perpetual water shortages. For Ludwick Marishane of Limpopo South Africa, the quest to solve this problem began with a simple question: “Why doesn’t somebody invent something that you can just put on your skin and you don’t have to bathe?” Little did he know that his quest to answer this question would launch his career as a global entrepreneur, activist, making him the first African win the Global Student Entrepreneur of the Year award as well as the youngest patent holder in the continent.ludwick-marishaneAs Marishane set out to develop his product, a lotion which upon being rubbed on the body would circumvent the need to bathe, he discovered shocking statistics: over 2.5 billion people in the world currently lack access to bath water, resulting in diseases such as trachoma which result in multiple infections and eventual blindness.

Determined to fight this problem, Marishane began researching chemical compounds on his Nokia cell phone (he didn’t own a laptop) with limited internet access, looking through toxicities, properties on sources such as Google and Wikipedia. He then typed up a 40-page business plan and a patent proposal, also all on his cell phone, which resulted in a patent and the birth of the product known as DryBath—the fulfillment of his vision. For people without an adequate water supply, this saves water and the time it takes to collect it.

Marishane achievement, given his limited resources, is one that exemplifies the virtue of hope which exists in even the poorest parts of the world. As he puts it,

“[…] on the gravel roads of Limpopo, with an allowance of 50 rand a week, I came up with a way for the world not to bathe. What’s stopping you?”

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As kids we are taught to play without any reason why and it is acceptable that playing is good. This was the vision Charlie Todd had when he began ImrpovEverywhere, turning public places into a dramatic stages for harmless, humorous pranks that would make people’s day just a little more interesting.Charlie describes ImprovEverywhere as being ‘organized fun’. The basic concept is to get a group of volunteers to simultaneously do something unexpected in a public place and record how non-confidants react. Among their exploits are getting 3500 people to walk backwards in Times Square, riding the subway once a year without pants and in underwear, and so on:

improv-everywhere“I think our best projects are ones that are site specific and happen at a particular place for a reason. And one morning, I was riding the subway. I had to make a transfer […] there are these two giant escalators. And it’s a very depressing place to be in the morning, it’s very crowded. So I decided to try and stage something that could make it as happy as possible for one morning.”

The purpose of ImprovEverywhere is to create humorous situations that bring excitement to otherwise unexciting locales and to give strangers unique and interesting experiences, making their day a just a little funnier and perhaps better. This and initiatives like it, even when they bring something as simple as a smile to someone’s face or may them more aware of their surroundings, capture the essence of humor as a means of creating positive experience that can improve our daily lives.”

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Integrity is put to the test, as it was for 22-year-old US lieutenant Bradley Manning during the Iraq war, when one’s own principles come into conflict with the world around them and even with their own self-interests. Acting by your own long held moral principles in these situations constitutes integrity.bradley-manningFor Manning, integrity was put on the line when while working as an Intelligence Analyst in Eastern Baghdad, he witnessed his own comrades committing acts of abuse, unnecessary killing and heinous crimes against humanity. After sitting on it for some time, he decided that the world needed to see what was happening and that his silence and self-preservation was not worth the tremendous suffering that was taking place.

He backed up all the logs for the Iraq and Afghan wars and attempted to send the logs to Washington Post and Times magazine, who did not take him seriously. Finally, he turned to the international whistle-blowing organization, Wikileaks, and submitted his documents. His documents quickly went viral online, spurring a cascade political drama resulting in his own persecution, but also a tremendous outpouring of public support worldwide.

“I felt I had accomplished something that allowed me to have a clear conscience based upon what I had seen and what I had read about and knew was happening in both Iraq and Afghanistan every day.”

Regardless of whether Bradley Manning’s actions were wise or prudent, few even among his opposition have doubted his intentions and his moral integrity, which drove him to reveal the story of injustice to the world at great personal cost. His actions emphasize the nature and importance of integrity as a source of trust and goodness even in the darkest of places.”

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The little known story of Krishna Shastry is of a 97-year lifetime of commitment to social improvement and acts of kindness.krishna-shastryBorn to a Sanaskrit scholar and poet in 1918, Shastry grew up taking part in historic events such as India’s freedom movement working as a volunteer for organizations lead by politicians such as Gandhi himself. His interest in literature became his creative outlet and, ahead of many authors of his time, his writing stayed away from reinforcing caste or class separation and encouraged a spirit of global citizenship.

He dedicated his time to serving his community of Belagere. Without any government assistance, he managed to set up schools which taught and fed about 300 children daily and strongly believed strongly that food and education were necessities no child should go without. His work also inspired others to donate their time and money. He remained passionate and intensely spirited about his initiatives all the way up to his death at the ripe age of 97.

Although little known outside India, the story of a century of Krishna Shastry life does more than document an intense and unwavering commitment to kindness. It also serves as a reminder that kindness is universal across time and space, whether it is our own backyards or the unknown villages of rural Subcontinent.”

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The late Benazir Bhutto was the first female prime minister of Pakistan and the first woman in history to lead a Muslim state. Frequently referred to as the “Iron Lady” for her unrelenting passion and uncompromising approach to political issues, she set an example for women in leadership both within and outside her country.benazir-bhuttoBhutto was the youngest daughter of Zulfikar Bhutto, a former prime minister, and grew up in an atmosphere nose-deep in politics. She was raised to speak both English and Urdu and studied at Oxford University and Harvard College, in addition to receiving honorary doctorates from the Harvard and the University of Toronto. Bhutto was also extensively involved in the advocacy of women’s rights and abuses in Pakistan. At the age of 35, Bhutto ran her first successful political campaign as the first woman ever to lead a political party and was sworn in as the Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1988. During her leadership she became an icon and source of inspiration for many women.

The true value of her leadership achievement is best appreciated when viewed within the patriarchal context of Pakistan’s politics. The public sphere within Pakistan then was wrought with inequality whereas the politics were an almost exclusively male enterprise. Her rise to the top of a male dominated hierarchy and establishing herself as a well-respected figure was an achievement second to none within the history of contemporary politics in the country. Unfortunately, Bhutto was assassinated after a speech during the 2008 elections campaign, however her legacy lives on. She was recently named as one of the seven winners of the United Nations Prize in the field of Human Rights.”

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Do you still write love letters? Hannah K. Brencher does. There was a time in her life when Hannah felt depressed and needed to be loved. She began to write letters telling her story and leaving them all over the city, and blogged about them. Then one night, she wondered if maybe her own way of reaching out for help was something more universal—a human need for affection and acknowledgement. With this in mind, she made an offer online asking people to tell her their stories and promised to write a letter to every single one.hannah-brencherTo her surprise, she began to receive a flood of stories, requests by people from all walks of life, pouring themselves out to her and asking her for a letter. Hannah quickly realised that letter-writing was much more powerful than email or tweets, and carried with it a potent message of caring.

Today, Hannah heads a non-profit organization, MoreLoveLetters. To her, letters are more than just scribbles on a piece of paper. They are the difference between a good and a bad day, between letting someone know that no one cares about them and that someone does. In her experience, receiving a love letter can be the difference between a marriage and a divorce, or the choice to live or commit suicide. Her organization encourages people to request love letters for people in your life. In a world of likes, followers and retweets, MoreLoveLetters sends out a message of palpable love. Pure, old-fashioned, never goes out of style Love. Hannah’s initiative captures the essence of unconditional love and its many embodiments, in this case letters.”

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Love of Learning

The greatest jeopardy player ever, one can imagine, would surely have to love learning to get there. Ken Jennings, the man with the title, recognized at a very early age that knowledge truly was power and became obsessed with learning facts: facts about everything, from the Halley’s Comet to popular culture and to knowing every state and major city in the world. This also led him to become obsessed with trivia game shows where this knowledge was put to the test.ken-jenningsTo Ken Jennings, the accumulation of knowledge brought tremendous rewards. After applying to become a player on the popular game show Jeopardy!, Jennings was accepted and won his very first jeopardy game by a short margin. He went on to have a historic 74 episode winning streak on jeopardy, his total earnings on the show exceeding $3 million.

Recalling his experience, Ken reflects that he loved learning long before it paid for his house. He always valued the quantity of information, which he considers an advantage and necessity in a world where we are faced with increasingly complex decisions. He also values being able to have the knowledge at his fingertips and apply it in the right way at the right time, in ways as commonplace as breaking the ice in a conversation by discussing a mutual interest, to knowing when a tsunami may be about to hit an area and evacuating people to save lives.

Throughout his entire life, Ken Jennings has both benefited from and advocated for the acquisition of knowledge and he lives by the creed that “it’s always better to know a thing than not know it”. To him, knowledge is an absolute good which enriches our lives and learning should be an endless pursuit of this good.”

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Modesty and Humility

NBA player, now a crossing guard, Adrian Dantley, NBA all-star, Olympic Gold Medalist, and player who averaged 30 points per page and made millions of dollars, now works as a crossing guard in Maryland, making just under $15,000 a year, a career choice that left many surprised but equally inspired.adrian-dantley-crossing-guard-mergedDantley’s choice of a retirement career and his attitude towards his job sets a true example of modesty and humility. After making over a million dollars a year during his 15-year career, Dantley chose a career as a crossing guard because, according to him, “he likes being around the kids” and loves to “do something to help the community”. Despite his former celebrity status, he remains humble and doesn’t think any job is too little.

It’s not beneath me, I’m a regular guy. I just played basketball. I’m a Hall of Famer. And I like working.

Through his modesty and his commitment towards helping his community, and his decision to take on a job that many would consider unworthy of a former celebrity, Dantley sets a wonderful and inspiring example of humility and modesty in action.”

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The world needs more of the example set by the Norwegian bank Norges, where a few years ago, philosopher Henrik Syse was hired as an advisor and was given substantial decision-making power. What was unique about this appointment was the fact that Syse knew little about even the ABCs of investment. Upon first being approached for the job, Syse was confused, thinking it was a prank,

“Do you even know who you’re talking to” he asked? “I’m a philosopher, not a banker. If I had a stock or a bond in front of me, I wouldn’t even know the difference.”

Little did he know that Norges Bank Investment Management hired him precisely for that reason: to bring in a new, untainted perspective and voice to their decision-making committee. He and a norges-bankdozen other colleagues were hired to investigate ethical issues such as employment conditions, women and children’s rights, exploring rumors of suspicious business practices to facilitate decision making and ensuring that their company does not invest in ethically dubious practices. Such decisions, the company reasoned, were best made by people who weren’t biased by economic considerations.

Virtues are often more than individual strengths: they can also serve as visions for organizations and even entire nations. Norges Bank’s commitment to creating an environment of “complete openness” and hiring non-experts in finance as an “ethical compass” sets an excellent example of open-mindedness for other organizations to follow.”

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The story of Hyeon-seo Lee is at once a chilling and inspiring account of life in the nation of North Korea, ruled by a dictatorship and plagued with political suppression, starvation and an unimaginable lack of basic freedoms most of us take for granted. Hyeon-seo had grown up in a middle class family in the North Korean province of Yanggang believing propaganda about her country being “the best on the planet” despite being taught little about the rest of the world. As she grew up and saw the dilapidating starvation and suffering around her, it slowly dawned on Hyeon-seo that her country may not be the best in the world and she resolved to escape to China, which to her was a “sea of lights across the river”.hyeon-seo-leeIn China, living with distant relatives, Hyeon-seo struggled to assimilate in the Chinese language and culture, constantly evading the threat of being discovered as an illegal immigrant and being deported back to North Korea. Being caught for escaping from North Korea would likely have resulted in a death penalty. She was even once caught by the Chinese police and interrogated, but was lucky enough to narrowly escape by convincing them that she was Chinese.

After living in China for several years, Hyeon-seo made the bold move to go the twin and rival nation, South Korea, where she was initially detained. Even after she was allowed to stay in South Korea, her hardships were far from over. She went through a crisis as she struggled with her national identity, but continued to learn a third language and yet another new culture and established her identity as a South Korean national. Today, Hyeon-seo Lee is an activist who advocates for the rights of North Korean’s and providing them with international support to address problems such as starvation.

The story of Hyeon-seo displays the essence of persistence in the face of loneliness, overwhelmingly unfavourable odds and chronic instability of conditions around her. Her story is one of great suffering, but also inspirational success.”

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Perspective and Wisdom

Jonas Salk was a hero in his time, and though he is little known today, his work continues to have tremendous impact on the world we live in. Dr. Salk is the inventor of the Poliomyelitis vaccine, but what makes his story remarkable is not his invention, which was ingenious and timely, but that upon being asked who owned the patent to the blockbuster vaccine, he replied “No one owns the patent, could you patent the sun?”

jonas-salkA latest estimate by Forbes Magazine indicated that for his refusal to patent the drug, Dr. Salk gave up an opportunity to make in excess of $7 billion. Had he decided to patent the drug, the cost of the vaccine would have gone up at least 25%. Given that many vital pharmaceuticals are already unaffordable to the vast number of people in poverty-stricken countries such as Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan where these drugs are most needed due to on-going epidemics, Dr. Salk’s donation to humanity may have been a terrible business decision but one that resulted in saving countless lives. In today’s competitive world of Big Pharma, where decisions to market drugs are often based not on their effectiveness but on a long term cost-benefit analysis of the revenue the drug would generate for a company, decisions to forego intellectual rights would be unheard of. With a growing polio epidemic, he foresaw the importance of the drug and his decision ensured it would be available to those who needed it most.

Dr. Salk’s desire to serve humanity overrode his desire for money and fame. He was also an excellent researcher who paved way for a new paradigm of using benign viruses as the basis of new vaccines to improve human well being. Through his work and ethic, Jonas Salk sets a potent example of wisdom and perspective.”

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The man who saved the world, a title there is little doubt Stanislav Petrov has thoroughly earned. Although little known and under-rewarded, Stanislav’s actions during the Cold War exemplified prudence and through it averted what may have been the greatest tragedy in human history.stanislay-petrovOn the night of September 26 1983, at the absolute height of the Cold War and with the United States of America and Russia furiously engaged in a nuclear arms race, Stanislav resumed his duty as the Strategic Rocket Forces officer. His job: to report any military strikes detected by the Russian computer systems and signal the launch of a counter-attack to his superiors. What happened on this night was what Stanislav dreaded the most—the computers detected a nuclear missile headed towards the Russian capital, Moscow. Four more missiles were detected in quick succession. Had he followed protocol, Stanislav would have reported the incident to his superiors immediately, who would then have ordered an all-out Russian attack on the US, likely resulting in a dreadful nuclear war.

However, in a remarkable show of prudence and clear thinking, Stanislav stayed calm and reasoned firstly that five missiles would not constitute a strategically successful attack. He further considered that the computerized detectors were subject to errors, even five in a row. After considering all possibilities Stanislav, at great risk to his own country, decided not to report the incident. It was later determined that the error had been caused by a rare alignment of sunlight. In the end, Stanislav was neither punished, nor rewarded for his actions which likely prevented war. Nonetheless, his ability to consider all factors and arrive at the best decision in such a dire situation is an exemplary display of prudence.”

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Jared Fogle, the Subway Guy, came to prominence after losing over 250 pounds in one year of going on a diet. Born in Indianapolis, Jared was always overweight. Attributes his weight to unhealthy habits such as watching too much TV and playing too many video games, eating mostly junk food and exercising very little, a recipe for childhood obesity. Jared Fogle’s condition foresaw an era in American Health where childhood obesity would only grow and would go on to become an epidemic.By the time Jared was in college, he began to notice many of the adverse health effects of obesity the doctors had warned him about. He began to feel tired all the time, began suffering from edema (swelling from fluid accumulation in joints) and sleep apnea. He was unable to do many of the things he saw others his age do, such as take part in sports he enjoyed. Weighing in at over 425 pounds, his quality of life was poor at best.

jared-fogleAt this point, Jared decided, similar to the advice he now gives other people, that parents, doctors and friends can only do so much and that ultimately one has to hold oneself accountable for ones choices. For the following year, he decided only to eat two light subway sandwiches a day and drink only diet beverages or water, began exercising and in only a year lost nearly 200 pounds of his former body weight. To anyone who has ever attempted to lose weight themselves, his achievement in self-control and self-regulation is readily recognizable.

Jared’s journey, which began with a belief in his own knowledge and sense of self-efficacy, also drove him to start the Jared Foundation for childhood obesity. He frequently visits elementary schools, and is a strong proponent of self-regulation: he believes that you do not have to quit TV or fast food, but only “do less of it and more of healthy things”. Whether or not his approach holds merit, he nonetheless exemplifies a success story in self-regulation.”

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Social Intelligence

Oprah Winfrey is widely recognized as one of the greatest African-American philanthropists, richest women and host of the highest-rated talk show in American history.In contrast, her life had a most humble beginning. Born in a poor neighborhood, as child Oprah was abused by the male members of the family, stigmatized and bullied for being a poor African American woman. Hardships that may have been overwhelming for some, however, did not break her audacious spirit and her sociability and speaking talent began to be noticed. In high school she was voted as the Most Popular girl, won several oration contests and a full scholarship to university.

She manoeuvred her way through media circles, a then predominantly Caucasian male enterprise, to becoming the first African American talk show host. She is also became a formidable businesswoman, self-starting a production company and an empire with satellite radio stations, magazines and several published best-sellers.

Behind the story of the now self-made rich billionaire are simple beginnings. What were the raw materials of Oprah’s tremendous success? Pure passion and a precocious ability for sensing the emotional pulse of others, whether it was school peers, business partners or celebrity guests on her talk show who pour themselves out to her on national television. Her personality and her achievements represent a tremendous capacity for social intelligence as an agent of personal success.”

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How happy is Matthieu Ricard? What is the secret of the man who is dubbed by the media as being the happiest people alive?Matthieu began his life as the son of a Jean-Francois Revel, a well-known French philosopher, and grew up within the French tradition of philosophy which values passion and thinks little of happiness. As a young man, he completed his PhD at the prestigious Institut Pasteur under the supervision of a Nobel Laureate, launching an extremely promising career as a molecular biology. What did Matthieu do with all that success?

matthieu-ricardIn 1972, just as his career was taking off, he decided to forsake his scientific career. Today Matthieu is the French translator for the Dalai Lama, a successful writer, a world renowned photographer, but not a molecular biologist. All proceeds from his books go towards funding hospitals and schools in Tibet. He lives a celibate and modest life in the Himalayas, capturing images of his surroundings, the landscape and of his spiritual masters. Extensive clinical testing, MRI scanning at the University of Wisconsin have consistently shown Matthieu to be well outside the normal range of human happiness, and well above it.

Matthieu chose a simpler life and embraced Buddhist spirituality to attain what he calls a ‘deep sense of serenity and fulfillment’. For him, happiness is more than a state of elation brought about by outer conditions, but an inner state. In a very real sense, Mattheiu’s life shows the power of spirituality for allowing happiness even in the absence of materialistic ingredients most of us consider necessary.”

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“Imagine life without limbs, it would be very difficult indeed, which was how it began for the Australian born Nick Vujicic. Nick was with a tetra-amelia syndrome, a rare disorder characterised by a congenital absence of all four limbs. From the day of his birth, Nick’s condition was a source of horror to his parents and many he encountered afterwards. Despite being mentally normal, provincial laws barred him from attending a mainstream school. As an adolescent, he was a “bully’s dream” and he even contemplated suicide as early as age eight.nick-vujicicFor Nick, inspiration came in the form of a newspaper article about a disabled man who had achieved great things, and his unwavering faith in god, whom Nick realised, had made him this way to ‘give hope to others’. Nick embraced his condition and went on to attend university and attain a degree in accountancy and financial planning. He also learned to use a computer, write and type with a special grip using his two toes, play drum pedals, surf and even sky-diving, among other things.

Today, Nick is known for being one of the most inspiring and energetic motivation speakers in the world. He has written several books, starred in award-winning films and was one nominated for the Young Australian of the Year Award.

Nick reminds us that vitality is not simply the physical state of living, but rather a psychological state of being that can empower us beyond our wildest imaginations. Embracing our own vitality, as Nick has, allows us to contagiously spread it everywhere we go.”

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