Hal Hershfield is an Associate Professor of Marketing and Behavioral Decision Making at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. In his research, he examines the ways that people consider their future selves, and how feelings of connection to these distant selves can impact well-being over time. Before taking part in a Zócalo/UCLA Anderson School of Management event titled “Can Individuals Be Happy in an Unhappy Time?” in downtown L.A. at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy, he spoke in the green room about his happiest time, Emma Stone, and why he teaches.
When were you happiest?
Due to some world events, I would say I was happiest about three to five years ago.
Where are you happiest?
At home, with my wife and kid, normally with music I want to listen to playing. And maybe something that represents coziness.
What’s the last book you read?
It’s called My Struggle by Karl Knausgard (a Norwegian author of autobiographical novels). It’s this guy’s life, he’s an average guy, but it’s the most amazing window into his head.
Who was the last actor or actress who made you swoon?
What’s the best decision you ever made?
Recognizing that other people can help me along. I know that’s not exactly a decision and that you’re supposed to say getting married, having a kid, but once I recognized other people could help me, that really helped me.
What’s the worst decision you ever made?
Leaving at 5 o’clock, thinking I could get here by 6:15 p.m.
You examine the ways people consider their future selves. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
This is probably the first time in my life that I would say, pretty much here. That’s never been the case before… Hopefully I’ll be doing the same thing I’m doing now, and doing more of it.
What question do you get most from your students?
It’s probably, “Is this career path the right one for me?”
You’ve won a number of teaching awards. Is it still an albatross in academic life for a young scholar who is a good teacher?
I don’t know. But it is true that academia requires you to spend a lot of time with yourself. But I like spending time with other people, and teaching allows me to do that.
You consult with the Bureau of Consumer Finance Protection. What do you find most interesting about it?
It’s interesting to try to figure out—efficiently and in a cost-effective manner—how to come up with tools that can really help consumers. Applying research in a way that can affect people’s lives is interesting.
What teacher or professor made the biggest impact on your life?
Laura Carstensen. She was my graduate advisor at Stanford, and she always put asking big important questions that will affect people over everything else.
What’s your favorite place to eat on the westside?
Flake, on Rose Avenue, in Venice. Every Tuesday morning, my daughter and I, and sometimes my wife, go there for breakfast. I love the food and I also love being a regular somewhere.