Tchiki Davis, Ph.D: founder, The Berkeley Well-Being Institute

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Tchiki Davis, Ph.D. is a writer, consultant, and expert in well-being technology. In 2016, she founded The Berkeley Well-Being Institute to create cutting-edge well-being products based on the latest scientific research. She created The Happiness Skills Workbook to help people develop the skills that increase happiness and a variety of activities for kids to help them develop emotional intelligence. Tchiki also regularly publishes science-based advice on how to build happiness for Psychology Today, The Greater Good Science Center, Huffington Post, and Jhana, and has helped businesses design and develop well-being products that have reached more than a million people worldwide.

What do I do best?

People I’ve worked with tell me I’m highly innovative and creative, but what does this really mean? I think it means that I think about what could exist more than what does exist. I enjoy learning new things and creating things from scratch. I don’t limit myself to what has already been proven but instead explore what is possible.

What makes me the best version of myself?

I’ve gotten myself here by being determined, tenacious, and persistent. I’ve ignored good advice, taken risks (some paid off; others blew up in my face), and pushed forward down difficult paths. Now that I say all this all out loud, the best version of myself is probably not the version of myself that got me here. That being said, I wouldn’t change a thing.

What are my aspirations?

My aspirations change. And I’m okay with that. I find value in most things I do, yet I often want to switch my focus to something entirely new. Sometimes I want to be the most famous happiness writer ever and other times I want to take off for the countryside and become a farmer. So I think many different paths would make me happy. I just do things I enjoy and try not to get too hung up on the details.

My Biggest Success?

I would say my biggest success has been all the tiny steps that got me to this point. Most of my childhood was spent living in a one-bedroom apartment with my mom, sometimes on food stamps, often looking forward to our dumpster-diving adventures. For a long time, college wasn’t in my plans. And because I worked my way through college when I did go, it took me 5 years to catch up enough to get into graduate school. Eventually, I got my Ph.D. at UC Berkeley and now run my own business. So my biggest success was all the little things that amounted to something that looks big.

My Most Challenging Moment?

One particularly challenging decision was to close down my first business (a happiness games app) and mark it as a failure. I had invested so much time and effort, but it wasn’t going anywhere. It was hard to let go, but in the long run I see that I learned a ton. I learned so much that my current business, The Berkeley Well-Being Institute, was revenue positive in the first year. Starting over turned out to be the right decision after all.

My Motto?

“If you do what you already do, you will know what you already know.” I use this quote to remind me to seek out challenges, take risks, and enjoy the process.

My Favorite People/Role Models?

Because I work in the happiness industry, my role models are people who I admire, especially because I know how hard it is to do what they do. In particular, Rick Hanson, Gretchen Rubin, and Brene Brown are some of my most role-model-y role models.

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

Basically gardens… anywhere. The rose garden in Vancouver is nice, the vegetable gardens in Santa Cruz are yummy, and the Old Growth Redwood “gardens” in California are pretty stellar.

My Favorite Products/Objects?

I really like the happiness platform, Greater Good In Action. I’m also a big fan of Google Calendar and Asana, which help me stay on task. And Pandora, of course, to keep me company.

My Current Passions?

If I had the time, I’d spend all day writing posts for my blog on Psychology Today, Click Here for Happiness. I also enjoy creating products that help people increase their happiness. And I watch a ton of TED talks.