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Shawn Achor: The Life-Altering Power of a Positive Mind

2019-04-10 | 🔗

In a live appearance at UCLA’s Royce Hall, New York Times best-selling author, happiness expert and Harvard-trained researcher Shawn Achor says that pleasure isn't the only thing that brings people happiness. How do you explain the joy felt during spiritually and emotionally challenging moments, such as when your legs are burning halfway through a marathon or when you cradle your 1-year-old in the middle of the night until she falls back to sleep? He offers a definition of happiness that encompasses all things that bring us deep, lasting joy. Shawn also explains how by making a single positive behavioral change, you can spark a powerful chain of happiness in your own life.

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
I'm over Winfrey welcome to supersede conversations the podcast. I believe that one of the most valuable gives you can give yourself is time taking time to be more fully present your journey to become more inspired and connected to the deeper world. Around us starts right now. Sean one of the kindest Spaniel ever made because he practices when he preaches. He and his wife Michel are carving out. New oratory in the latest science on how positive thinking can literally change the trajectory of our lives. Sean is going to tell us about the life altering power of a positive move
wow I am so thrilled and honour to be here. This is incredible. I am so grateful to be surrounded by so many kindred, sir. Its I'm on stage with all my heroes. It's this is an absolute thrill is that is just a stunning for me. I know I'm in a building right now, two minutes from where my mom and dad met each other fell in love and they had me live literally literally.
I'll, be here if it weren't for them right now, I'm my mom is joint here today, a Russia that there's my mom Raina. She sitting she's appropriately in Rome o ago circles. They hide her, but she's graciously thing next day, Amy the unicorn from the TED talk. If you know a meeting of course, but I am I just I have to say that this is an absolute honor. You note last February I my beautiful wife, Michel Gilan, pregnant with my little son LEO and she said, when travelling a lot, you can't go anywhere in February and less Oprah COS. Basically she did. Four days after LEO was born. We were out of the hospital as an operas backyard talking about happiness research, which was incredible.
It is incredible, because the other is I'm grateful to be here today as well First, we're off the college myself to start collecting debts, my father my father, was buoyed by the idea that someday I might come back and I may be a doctor or lawyer bankers, something he thought would make sense. And when I came from college and torn dad. I want to study The science of happiness. He sat me down my foot, There is a neuroscientist paler university down and Waco taxes, and he told me that average scientific paper, the average scientific journal article is only read on average by seven people total, which is paid depressing for research into here, because I know that that statistic, often clues mom. Which is a tragedy, because we we ve. Research over the past decade, which literally transforms what it means to be human we're living through,
when revolutions right now we're living through a technological revolution that allows us to have information, our fingertips every moment, smartphone and smart watches, but hidden behind revolution is more powerful and not a technological revolution is a human revolution that the super soul community is actually leading what that revolution is based upon research. We ve been finding that, as we ve been able reappear behind the curtain to see what the human brain is doing. As for constructing our beliefs, as for constructing a picture of the world is reconstructing happiness, it turns out of Europe. Sitting in a high school science class right now we be teaching you that you are your genes in your environment, right that your boy, you're, born with certain genes, are predisposed to intelligence or creativity or happiness, be city.
And its whatever happens to you in this world. That's your environments, what happens to you, so we live under the victim hood of our genes and our environment. When we talk about happiness, when we talk about the course of our life, but what this research has actually been showing us why this research is creating revolution is big cousins. Breaking the tyranny of our genes and environment over our levels of happiness and the trajectory of our life. What we ve been finding is scientifically happiness, could actually be a choice. Even when life is difficult, you don't have to You don't have to just be your genes in your environment. We could transform our lives at any point. We could trump not only our genes but eight decades of experience to actually no longer conform to the patterns of this. But be transformed by the renewing of our minds. There is power and the three thick there's parent. Now, where we talk about science right, there's a super soul Sunday. It right. I one stage by the reason we're talk about science is because you know I get
Emails or people go on Facebook, sometimes they say I don't need to know any of the science stuff, because I get this already. You know like already. I know in and my heart right or there's something I can accept upon belief, which I love, and I find that to be wonderful, but for those of us who have sometimes had our faith shaken when sometimes we wonder if Belief in our behaviour actually matters when we're trying to create positive change in this road for wondering if we can actually change the trajectory of our life than this research is actually forests, because this resource doesn't led away from our believes that doesn't led away from that. In fact, they actually go in exactly the same direct, What I want to talk about is you know, I'm not I'm not. I'm not artists, but art informs my faith. It enriches my worldview, I'm not a great musician, need music. I need music within my life and you not be scientists, you might not be his interest, but this can actually become part of your daily spiritual practice, because what we ve been finding as optimism is a daily spiritual path.
And when we do it, we can transform this world. But as soon as we start talking about happiness, an opposite optimism, everyone gets the wrong idea. Last year I was speaking to a group of the US, Northern California, all Theo's top software companies and want to see you there are leading this technological revolution. When the ceos offered to drive me to the airport to talk about how we could cascade this research out to his entire company using these ecosystems, digital interventions are so excited. I got this year's really nice sports car and put on my seat belt. He got on the other side same car, mealy started talking to me about how has come he's been growing so quickly, their stress levels have been rising and while you speeding towards the airport, That little Bell was going off in his car, the seat, Bilbao and eventual, Stop going off, it got tired and I turn of us. If you don't you don't wear seat belts. Is the notion of your talk. I've loved or research, I'm an optimist apple.
No you're, an idiot, but I'd love to work with you optimism, this great for a lot of things, but it doesn't stop cars from hitting us. It doesn't stop reality from impinging upon us that's irrational optimism, and if we sugar coat the present with our optimism, we make bad decisions for the future. We don't you
instead things we need to in this world. If we shouldn't go the present, we don't stop the discrimination. We see. We don't stop the violence. We see happening where we don't stop. The inequalities where we need to do is do exactly what Oprah has been exhorting us to do for decades, which is to create rash optimism. Rational optimism does not start with rose color glasses. It starts with a realistic assessment of the present starts with realism, both good and bad. That's why Bernay Browns work is so important because it helps us to see both sides of the spectrum to be realistic about where we are, but throughout the entire process, maintain the belief that our behaviour matters is linked to the people around us. If linked to the right people around us and what we found is of people have that type of approach. We get a completely different type of how come when we do this research, which has been amazing, because that by the way
not the message, most people who are not here on the survey and getting to enjoy all these incredible speakers, that's not what their brains are being are being exposed to. If you turn on your smartphone, your brain is immediately bombarded by negative information. Is you read the news right, murder and crop? The disease is a natural disasters are very quickly. Your brain could say you could talk about happiness for twenty five minutes, but let's get back to reality. Realities mostly suffering not suffering right now to worry, is coming right, it's a skewed ratio. We know it's a skewed ratio. I've been so excited. Ask you this question: how many of you here in the super soul, community? How many of you over the past three years have decreased the amount of news to you consume because you felt like it had a negative effect upon you and your life look around the world. This is not an ostrich approach. This is we need to decrease that noise. We can find the signal back to happiness within our lives. What we need to be what I do I just did research with my beautiful wife, Michel Gilan. We partnered up with area Huffington, and we just found
Three minutes three minutes the washing negative news in the morning. We know today, day immediately, but six to eight hours later you're. Twenty seven percent, more likely to report a negative day that negative news is transforming the course of our day and we need to do something different causes. Creating. If you see my TED talk, the only thing I want to include from it is creating what we call the medical syndrome which have you know. People have been through medical training during the first year, medical school, you read through all those symptoms and diseases that can happen to a human being. So many, though, Brian doctors are realising they have all of those symptoms, no actually start manifesting this system, if you're bored, if you get bordering my talk, you can just go on whether the each start reading through different diseases and after whilst like a checklist dead hand that's why I was feeling, while he was talking. I have a brother in law. Name Bobo, which is another story. We have time for here today, but Bobo COM, on the phone Bobo's
Amy the unicorn and became a pediatrician says above a commune found from Yale Medical School, which arrived when such on. I have leprosy. Which even a Yale is extraordinarily rare. But I had no idea how to console poor Bobo because he had just gone over an entire week of menopause what we're fine The lines to which we view reality, the changes, our experience of it and our ability to cry to review reality. The changes our experience of it and our ability to create a better world for other people happiness doesn't stop us from change. It gives us a belief that change is actually possible, which I love, which is why we have to do a brief experiment with you right now. You don't have to do any my experiments, I'm not allowed to bring consent forms to talks anymore, active after that,
Jacques problem, we had a couple times go, but if you're willing to participate all energy, I'm so excited do this with this group. All I need to do is just please partner up with someone you sitting next. To turn up in appears to, of course, person do partner prepares. The only caviar is, I'm legally required to tell you that you can not partner up with someone you you're married two for this experiment. Whether you wish you were married to. so move around. That's the problem, especially in this room so I don't, have a partner of non marriageable material. So here is where I need you to do The person sitting closest to this side of the room, your purse number one in the pair persons furthest from outside it. I'm your me number two in the pair, if your front pick back upstairs person closest to me as so raise your if your of those apply just pick one person to be number one so raise your hand if your person number one for this experiment raise your hand per person. We're too. That is not the experiment.
I have to do this now, if they did this experimental Wall Street a few months ago, and it literally took that struggling bank five minutes to figure out who number one in the group was, which explains why on a Wall Street Suharto, I'm interested in how many of you Many of you are psychology friends reel off psychology books. You have psychology, agree, read the happiness advantage, so grateful for my psychology friends. This is the emotional prime of the experiment and for everyone else does This is nothing over there. If you're, like you, ve, taken your genetic predisposition, you build those genes up through your self discipline and your self control you able to pass the classes you needed to an in school to apply ourselves. Your families to your work, to your lives, to your communities where love for you to do is use all that self discipline in control even called waiting for decades. I'd like you to use it to control your behavior for just seven seconds with your partner. If you can't at eight seconds, you could do
Every like two or with your partner, but for seven seconds we need you to control yourself so person under one percent or one. We ask you doing this experiment. These we ask you to this experiment is to not get angry with person number two when they do to you. What about? Tell them to do to you. First, another wine don't get angry, don't get sad. Please please don't cry like the group a couple weeks ago now is so embarrassing. That was that the Pentagon so what I need there was basically nothing with your partners who person ever wanted to. Please turn face one. Another person number one make sure you're with striking distance of first number two A person number one just go neutral on the inside. Try to feel no emotions and try and think no thoughts. Personal,
Don't move your hands from this point experiment even to defend yourself from person number to and person are monitored A neutron, your facial, zero motion on your face. No fear, no flinching, no frustration, zero motion. You ready person or using your decades of self discipline of control, to control your thoughts, your motions, your hands on your face, the person or to please look at them macsharry, looking at them directly in the eyes for the next seven seconds. Person number to please smile, genuinely warmly, but directly up into the eyes of person upper one, while looking at them more calmly and deeply rare. He go.
And stop and stop. I dont know why are clapping terrible. We're gonna need you that one more time and my view, can't you friends know you never Peter psychology experiment, let's just try it person ever to go neutron. The inside Fiona motions, think no thoughts. First number one make sure you look them directly in the eyes over the next seven seconds. It's your turn for retaliation, look at them warmly and deeply, while smiling at their eyes ready, go
and stop You can see. I was excited to do this with this community, my favorite part, This experiment is as soon as I say, stop everyone relax has it that was a difficult task to do something like I did it. You did nothing for seven second phase in this experimental. You smiled when I ask you not to success, meant that you did not smile for the four seven seconds. Raise your hand, raise your hand if you fail miserably this experiment by smiling when you're not supposed to be some look at that
that's incredible, put your hands and raise your hand. If you successfully did what I asked you to for the full seven seconds, one: two: three: four: five: six: seven: eight: nine ten, eleven twelve thirteen fourteen fifteen. Sixteen seventeen eighteen nineteen twenty so a hundred two hundred liars and we ve got fifteen hundred people and more than ninety percent of you cannot control yourselves for seven seconds. I've done that Spare me now and fifty one countries across the globe and what we eighty two. Eighty five percent of people worldwide cannot control themselves for the seven seconds of this experiment which encroach I've done this for senior level. Anchors all men on the MID in Tokyo, Japan, small percentage stone, the mid seventies True narrowly universal. I want to add one end, because I had such a learning moment. I made a mistake and one of the countries that went to- and many of you can forget mistake. I made way before I did
invited by the royal family and Adami to get to give a talk on how we could build up positive leadership and optimism amongst women and the Middle EAST. You got it for I did. I did not get it so I was so excited about this, because I was so passionate about. I started my talk with this experiment and halfway through realise that half of the ninety percent of the room was veiled for the smiling experiment, which I thought of it. I would not have done the experiment. I am so grateful. I did because those incredible women in the room taught me something. They told me that the experiments to work you can see this I was in the other woman's eyes and the veil, despite the veil, the smile was equally contagious. What I love
this incredible right. If incredible. The reason I want to show you this experiment, which is predictive of nothing, is illustrative of something the transforms, what it means to be human, and we rarely get resource like this. Where we discovered is, if you put me into an MRI brain scan scanned, my brain was smiling small parts of my brain will show activation, saying Sean your smiling, which we knew it happened I stopped smiling and you keep scanning and you flash a picture of one of you smiling in front of me. Small though parts of my brain called mirror neurons will start to act. Right when those mirror neurons activate. They say Sean you're smiling, but I'm not smiling you're smiling. For I can stop myself. My brain drop, the neural chemical. Many of you know code dopamine into my system, which raises my love of happiness. Enjoyment in my face moves into a smile before I can stop myself. You ve seen these. If you're looking for part here this morning, why you're smiling at them and their lips were quivering while there are trying not smile, that's weird
That should not be happy. No quick! What's occurring, there what's happened. There is their mirror. Neurons are putting gets from motor neurons are brain early thinks you're smiling effect with the problem here face now where this gets. If you ve ever spoken to a group of people before me, person starts yawned and that other people's Europe, starting on that's, not because your boring that can possibly be it. I keep telling myself was happening. There is, as I see for my visual field, start to smile. My mirror nonce could say I'm the one that some that's yawning. I could pick up the fatigue response if someone sitting all the way across the room there where this gets fascinate fifteen strangers all waiting. Play. They don't know their part of experiment, just standing waiting for their plane and you introduce an undercover research. We stand in the middle of them and a five meteor radius just begin to bounce nervously in place whispered, impatiently underground, and look at his watch repeatedly with a frown on space within two minutes. Waiting for that plane or train depend
the study worldwide, on average, seven to twelve of the fifteen individuals, one consciously star, bouncing nervously in place and or tapping are put on the ground and or look at their watch more than four times and then spend two minutes of your believe me. This is one of the eggs, comments, you can try yourself the next time you get on a plane if you want to add stress and negativity the people which I always do this one, a different gate. But the reason I love this experiment is because it shows us not only do smiles and yawned spread, but it turns out negativity, stress, uncertainty and anxiety. We can pick up like second hand. Smoke you don't even have to be the one smoking to have the negative health effects. The same thing is true: without other people processor world right. Mean incredible optimists you can be here surrounded by these incredible optimism.
We could go back out into a world as you leave here today, where that would not be the mode message right. That's not what most people are actually saying and our brains can pick up on an negativity and stress uncertainty. So it's whose I tell people this outside of this room. They make the mistake The mistake is: will find here all the people I'm cutting out of my life, not here that guy deep rending her on Facebook. I need see those posts right after that. Talk. When I get home a name to look at this person, which is awkward as I live with them, and if that's the response amazed doing their eliminate social connection and you get it you get it, they just alienated the very people we should be helping within this system right there,
here. I want to say about this: mirror these Neonazis. It gives you incredible amounts of power and shows how much change its possible. We're taught. You can't change. Other people. Happiness is an individual choice, but we are influencing people all the time and if we're not conscious about it, then their influencing us. But if you find a way to buffer your brain, using this research against the negativity, stress and uncertainty and create a single posit, behavior change, we can wash up watch that positive behavior change, wirelessly ripple out and Tipp other people's brains towards a belief that our behaviour matters, tourists who believed that change is possible and that happiness, Could actually be a choice, the reason this changes, everything as it means that, as we look at you now, there's no wires connecting you you're gonna scatter across the globe. After this right, there's no wires connecting us, but our brains have been designed to be wirelessly.
Connected through a mirror neuron network. We dont process the world, we co process happiness, we co process, optimism and belief, and if we can find some way of being able to create a positive effect upon other people, we can ripple out not only with our brain is doing but get other people are. Family members are friends or communities to do that. As well and this research I mean we ve seen it we ve seen at work. I should, when we went to a group of hospitals possible a very difficult times. People don't want to go there because of new sickness and disease, that I don't get the care that they need to know how to fix a hospital. So what we did is we went into places have great customer service. We went to one of the hostile. She flew into the Ritz Carlton one, the things that do as if you walk within ten feet of unemployed the Ritz Carlton. They make their train to make eye contact and smile at you within five, either train to say hello. It's actually really fun to go in and other spheres the them, even if you staying there and what we did was we imported that
group of hospital. We train eleven thousand doctors, nurses staff that within ten feet, make eye contact smile within five feet to say hello. Now we got some pushed back from some, the dockers. They said you heard me say: peoples live Making a ton of money, don't tell me how to walk up and down the hallway, I'm not doing you're stupid, smiling and issued from HR. So he said you don't have to, but we're socialized reciprocal rights of someone's has hello to you in the elevator, you don't fly em up, society, elevator re, usually say hello and then plug your phone. What we ve been finding, what we re finding is that now over the doctors, nurses doing this, but the patients coming at the hospital they never consciously were taught. The ten five way does not pose any where and when anything, but when they locked into those buildings. They were unconsciously learning a new social scrap. There were learning within this building, I'm supposed to treat people as if their human beings and what happens is not only do they
reciprocate. They initiate a social script. They never consciously learn within ten feet, making eye contact smile with five be singled out another cute story about how hospital always change, but happiness is an incredible advantage and what we found is six months later, the number of unique patient visits to the hospital rose dramatically the likelihood of patients to refer that hospital based upon the quality of care they received skyrocketed, that's the most important metric at a hostile, and the doctors engagement levels are happiness highest in the decade. There was a one second free behavioral change, that set up, Natalie, better quality care, but improving love with happiness there and more people being cared for. What I asked this community is what, if we had more than one second for a pessimist, walked into that hospital. They're going to leave had a better time there, but they still leaves a pessimist. Could in our interactions with us, could we get somebody to change
someone who is a genetic defects, pessimists into a lifelong optimist, lifelong deep or optimists, sound incredible, that's exactly what the research has shown us. I spent twelve years at Harvard studying happiness. I was actually the divinity school before getting into this saying Christian and buddhist ethics and won the ways that we define happiness, which I think is so important as we need to find happiness, is pleasure. Just so quick and show short and is over, we define happiness as the joy you feel. Moving towards or potential, if you're taking notes, write that down, because that's important happiness is the joy you feel. Moving towards a potential joy is something you can experience, even when life is not pleasurable right. Even Let's have a long run when your legs are burning so for joy, you can feel it working long hours, projects are waking up at one in the midst of childbirth, you can have high levels of joy, even when it's not a pleasurable experience, but we ve been finding is people who have a fraid of happiness there afraid of happiness, because they think was
of joy, even when it's not a pleasurable experience, but we ve been finding. Is people are half afraid of happiness, they're, afraid of happiness because they think will stagnate or will be blocked If I happy now, I won't keep fighting so hard. I'm happy now won't push his hard to make a better world. That's a pleasure. Does joy. This exact, opposite joy makes us want to invest more deeply in the people around us and makes us want to learn more about our community and makes us want to be able to find ways of being able to make this a better external world for all of us and as we started doing all this research, we found some pretty incredible things. First of all, your external world, not a great predictor of happiness. I've spent twelve years working at Harvard eighty percent of those Harvard students go to work debilitating depression. Ten percent of them contemplate suicide.
The previous year. Those are statistics. Problem are human beings, but but Amis heartbreaking watching people, so much potential lose connection of meaning in their life. Now that I've I've travelled to fifty one countries doing this research and now realise that story had nothing to do with Harvard and nothing to do with privileged Ivy League students in America. The story has to do with every single human brain in the world as we contemplate the connection between happiness and success. If we think we have to be successful to be happy, all we have to do is to think about all the times that formula hasn't work. Every time we ve been successful the path we just change the goalposts. What success looks like right, but find some way of becoming happier. Now we get an incredible vanish, created He tripled and our intelligence rises. Productivity improves by thirty one percent or forty percent, more likely receiver promotion, you're thirty nine percent more likely lived. Ninety four literally every educational and business outcome improves. We choose happiness first,
and what you ve been doing is practising that what we ve been finding in this research is that these small two minute positive habits are transformative. We found that around a dinner table getting up a child with genes for pessimism to think a three new things that their grateful for it turns out round the dirty. We think a three new things are grateful for you could take of default, pessimistic genetic, out, and turn them into a lifelong default optimist. Three minutes around three things are grateful for around at dinner table. Eighty year old man, eight year old men, you do the same thing twenty one days of doing these pause of habits, which is why we create the course to be twenty one days to create these pause of habits. But we a twenty these later. These people had practised specimens from a whole life there. Suddenly testing is low level optimist and pattern. Continues. You get gratitude good,
for you. That's not what the science is showing us. The science is showing us something incredible it showing us the week. I will never believed this before, but you can tromp your genes and your environment in two minutes a day. That's why this this is incredible. That's why we're breaking that tyranny that, for so many people, that seems incredible. The other things we ve and we knows right, darling about a positive experience each day for two minutes today. Just think, if one positive experience you can have a million of them today. One positive experience you write on a napkin or right in your phone turns out. You just stand that memories meaningful your brain can tell the difference between meaning and experience to just doubled it and you bring connect the dots for you. We did this with a national Emma society with people chronic neuro muscular disease. You do this. You journal about positive experiences for six for six weeks. Six months later, we can up your pain, medication by fifty percent. This is why we add the science to what you are
been doing because it validates is because oftentimes we just need a different language to talk to those are our children or resistant spouses or or bosses or co workers. We, is a different language that they might not be able to hear in our language, for happiness. Is a choice but as soon as you start talking about the research or the science, they might be able to hear loud and clear the very things that are going to lead them to the things you've already discovered, so part of what we're doing is doing from this research. For that very reason we found fifteen minutes of exercise a day is equivalent of taking an antidepressant is Deepak talks about two minutes of just quieting yourself and just watching your breath go in and out meditating for two minutes a day I google we found, we can increase your levels of happiness, dramatically drop their stress and their accuracy Bruce improved improved by ten percent in the final, the most powerful and last thing I want to say today is my favorite one, which I would I want to charge all of you to do today at some point going to pull out
phone very for semi do right, a two minute: positive email or text message praising you're thinking. One person who is not here today to minute pausing email is going to create a ripple effect for all the people who didn't get to come here today, right to menopause if you're watching this later on right now, a two minute positive email praising earth He one person, you know if you do this for the next three days erode you'll, you literally get addicted to it, You sure you spend all day long! Think about how amazing you were for writing that email in the morning. They, like I'm the type of person who does this stuff and UK great. Back. Then we know about the stupid maximum rows. Do they keep writing about how great you are, but twenty one days later, the real value? If I asked you about your social connection, if I ask you about the breadth of the meaning or social relationship, your scores off the charts social connection the year creating here you create with other people. Social connection is the greatest predictor of long term happiness. We have the trumps everything else we do. We just found this my favorite statistical last one
We just found that social connection is as predictive of how long you'll end up living as obesity, high blood pressure or smoking. We fight, so hard against negative. We forget to tell people how powerful a two minute pause of habit could be within their lives. All this research we ve been doing actually comes down to three conclusions. Happiness is a choice. Happiness spreads to that wireless mariner on network and happiness is an incredible advantage within our lives, but the deep messages changes possible scientifically happiness, the choice we have hope within our lives, but all of this is great having all this knowledge is wonderful, but where I want to conclude, with a tip of a hat to one of my heroes. Raw bell is that we can have we can have. We can fathom all the mysteries in the world and have all the knowledge, but if we do not have love freedom, love where nothing. If we speak, but the tongues of angels, the men but do not have love, were clinging or a resounding gone. So as we are Into our lives, we do it with love to help the people who are currently unhappy.
To not shame them for where they are but show them. That hope is possible within their lives. I went through too depression. I was at Harvard. I was on a bathroom floor at one point where breathing and living hurt, and now thank you. Thank you too Oprah, I'm on stage getting to talk with these incredible people about how happiness is actually a choice with our lives
So I want to say thank you to opera and I want to say thank you to view. I live here, I'm over wintry and you ve been listening to supersede conversations with the planned cast. You can follow super soul on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook if you haven't yet go to apple POD, Kennison, unsubscribe rate and review this plugins join me next week for another supersede conversation. Thank you for listening.
Transcript generated on 2020-01-10.