Bill Cannon was minutes away from walking into his former boss’ office. It was a meeting he was looking forward to, but he was also apprehensive. Dewey Jacobs (his boss of 30 years ago) had just lost his wife. Dewey was no longer with the company where he had worked for 35 years as a result of corporate restructuring. After Bill heard that Dewey had recently had a stroke, he felt that he owed Dewey a “cheer-up” visit. But that visit turned out very different than he expected.

Rather than retiring, Dewey was hired by the local university to teach a course on Making a Difference. The course quickly became one of the most successful courses on campus. Dewey had even recruited former employees of his to help him teach the course because of the heavy enrollment. When they met, Dewey shared with Bill a stack of glowing thank-you’s from students as well as the organizations that hired them.

While Bill was concerned about Dewey’s health, he saw no signs of the stroke. Dewey still had that strong sense of himself. He showed no sign of slowing down. In fact, he was developing a new course on hope that would be available for students facing personal struggles. “We just have to help students get through these tough times”, Dewey said.

As Bill said goodbye and started to drive home, he thought about a book he was reading called Flourish1. The author Martin Seligman talked about the features of well-being and what it means to be thriving. There were three key features which a person must have to be thriving and six additional features of which a person must have at least three.

As he looked at his notes, he found the features:

Core Features Additional Features
Positive Emotions Self Esteem
Engagement, Interests Optimism
Meaning, Purpose Resilience
Self Determination
Positive Relationships


Dewey had every one of them. Bill couldn’t help but wonder how Dewey could still be thriving with all the personal trauma he had been through. “How might we develop the capacity for flourishing?” he asked himself. “And imagine how that would change the direction of our society.”

* * *

“Flourishing goes beyond happiness, or satisfaction with life. True, people who flourish are happy. But that’s not the half of it. Beyond feeling good, they’re also doing good-adding value to the world.” – Barbara Fredrickson (psychology professor)

1Seligman, Martin E.P. Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, 2013.



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Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.