Chapter I — What you need to do to live a more rewarding life, one with success, happiness and contentment.
“How can anyone keep up?”
I hear this or some version of “things move too fast” every day. It’s no wonder. Just a scant five or seven years ago we had a choice: to plug in, or to refrain. Today, most feel they don’t have a choice. We’ve grown new appendages in the name of “i” gadgets or other connected devices. The expectation for instant response or engagement whether through social media, texting, email, FaceTime, or whatever the connection-cuvee of the day is, creates intense anxiety. You know. At the same time You are both a victim and an instigator.
Even when you drive, right? Admit it. You’ve texted, emailed or read something on your device while driving. You’ve also seen the horrifying ads. You know, the ads that show the very last text message someone sent before they were taken to the hospital or morgue. Sad. Not surprisingly, a study by Car & Driver showed that texting while driving impaired drivers six-times more than those driving under the influence. The National Safety Council found that 28% of automobile accidents today are caused by texting and driving—more than drinking while driving. Where are “mothers against texting while driving?” Awareness is slow, but our addiction grows daily.
Even if you don’t text and drive, chances are you’ve been distracted or experienced separation anxiety from your device—perhaps during a meeting, dinner, conversation or even in bed. Does this make you happy? Increase your chances of greater success? I doubt it. When it comes to achieving a sustainable balance in life and increasing happiness living a successful and more rewarding life, I have some solid ideas and recommendations that I believe are essential for you to take to heart and start practicing today.
Make your choice, ignore them if you dare. Keep in mind, this isn’t a multiple choice list, either. No, you’ve got to heed, take action and do the things that make up these tenets. This will take you down the path to live a more rewarding life.
Those who know me expected to see this at the top of my list. As a professional speaker, this is the subject of one of my most popular keynote speeches. I hope you have a chance to hear me deliver it live some day. In the meantime, you can take this teaser to heart. To be curious isto be open. When we’re open we absorb and think more. Look at children, they are the ultimate role models for curiosity. We all started our lives motivated by satisfying our curiosities, but somewhere along the way most of us lost it. Reignite your life, be curious.
It’s curiosity that drives and leads transformation and innovation—in our personal lives and in business. Think about it, when we are curious we wonder, ask questions, explore and seek something new or an understanding of the unknown. Great leaders and innovators foster cultures of curiosity. Steve Jobs famously questioned the “normal” way of doing things and sought to transform business models and create innovative products by asking why and why not. I’d say he succeeded quite well.
At Thomson Reuters, the 150 year-old news and information company, CEO Devin Wenig has made curiosity an important part of Reuters’ organizational culture. With more than 27,000 employees in 100 countries, Wenig confides that “curiosity is an enormous determinant of organizational and individual success.” Wenig encourages his team and leaders to be curious and nimble. Stay curious and each day discover something new.
Trust yourself and trust others. It’s unfortunate that we live in a society where action or inaction is often driven by fear. Whether this is fear of failure, strangers, sickness or disease, rejection or simply being afraid to try something new or different. When you learn to trust yourself and to listen to your gut—your intuition—you will see more possibilities and be open to opportunity.
Some may look at trust as belief or faith, regardless of your view, we also need to be trustworthy. Trust is a relationship and it is, in many ways, a transaction between a trustor and a trustee. As trustor, we need to take chances and accept risks—trust that “it’s ok.” As trustee, we must be trustworthy. Failure to understand and accept these roles will result in a breakdown of the relationship or transaction and the loss of the opportunity to see possibilities.
Don’t be afraid. Trust and be trustworthy.
Be human and embrace humanity and its diversity. Too often we cocoon ourselves or hide behind virtual screens or walls. A key lesson I’ve learned after traveling to more than 60 countries and 48 of these United States, is that the beauty of humanity is found in the kindness of strangers. Keep your head up as you walk down a busy street, smile and say hello to strangers. If you notice someone who appears to be lost or confused, ask them if you can help.
Last Sunday while strolling through downtown Santa Barbara I watched an elderly couple, dressed in their Sunday best, walking toward me. The man, with cane in one hand, and in the other he tightly held he’s wife’s hand and guided her down the street. They weren’t moving too fast, but seemed to walking with purpose. Just as we were about to pass each other I said, “Good morning, how are you?” The woman, startled, looked up at me and with brief hesitation said, “Gee— oh, hi—thank you, good morning.” This brief encounter touched each of us in our own way. I turned back and watch them continue to walk—with purpose.
Another simple gesture you can do is address people by their name. We all like hearing the sound of our name, even if pronounced poorly. So if you’re at the grocery store, coffee shop, or auto service shop, if someone is wearing a name tag, address him or her by their name—and smile. Make someone’s day and it will make yours. Be kind to strangers—every day.
Often life will throw you a curve, upset your balance and push you outside your comfort zone. Most of the time these things come in the form of unexpected or unwanted change. This could be the loss of a job, a new job or position, an end to a relationship, new responsibilities or perhaps unforeseen circumstances affecting some sort of change. Yet, when “change happens” most of us would rather resist or complain about it, rather than face or accept the change.
As hard as it may be to handle for some, change allows us to grow, learn and move forward. There’s no benefit in dwelling on the past and looking back. Instead, we must train ourselves to accept change and look at it as an opportunity to take advantage of, rather than a problem to solve.
You can do this simply by embracing change and making it part of your daily life—notice I didn’t say “daily routine.” You see, routine is our enemy. When routine is upset by change, we tend to tense up, stress and worry; while our attitude takes a u-turn south. So choose to change. Take a different route to work. Move the furniture around in your office, home or living room. Try a new restaurant or eat something you’ve never tried. Mix up your wardrobe or listen to new music. Make change your friend and embrace it with a huge bear hug. The next time you are faced with unexpected change, you’ll find opportunity and see the possibilities.
Explore the world, or your own backyard. Those of us who have diverse and unique perspectives that come with an expanded worldview will find it easier to adapt, communicate and relate when it comes to solving problems, resolving conflict and recognizing opportunity. Travel not only relaxes and rests the soul and the mind, it stimulates thinking and widens our view. It gives us the perspective we need in order to have vision, to innovate and lead and to have compassion.
Sure, traveling abroad to experience and immerse ourselves into new and different cultures is perhaps the best way to expand your worldview, but often time and other constraints get in the way. No problem. Chances are you can experience and immerse yourself in different cultures in your own backyard— you can travel the world in your own city or somewhere nearby. Do it over a long weekend. The key is choosing—with purpose—the decision to wander, explore and discover. Our country is rich in diversity and the melting pot of cultures and people offers immense opportunity to meet people, eat food, hear music and experience art from virtually every country on our planet. So, with just a little effort you can find pockets and neighborhoods all over the country; each rich in culture and populated by hundreds or thousands of people from a a particular country.
For example, this summer I was caught up in the thrill and excitement of the Olympics, the bi-annual sporting event that offers a chance to expand our worldview by watching athletes from all over the world compete and play with each other. So, on a Sunday afternoon I made my way to east San Diego in search of Ethiopian food. My first stop was an Eritrean restaurant and after a delicious lunch, the owner suggested that I could find many of the ingredients needed to cook traditional Ethiopian were available at nearby market. So, at the Awash Ethiopian Restaurant and Market the owner took me in, shared coffee from freshly roasted Ethiopian beans, sweets, snacks and unique spices and products he imports from Ethiopia. The virtual swinging front door brought a cast of characters rich in culture from all over Ethiopia and east Africa. And it was there in that market and restaurant, sitting along side a dozen of Ethiopians, that we all cheered on Tiki Gelana, from Bekoji Ethiopia who took the gold and broke the world record in the women’s marathon. I felt like I was in Ethiopia, though I was only 30 miles from home.
Seek, as they say, and you shall find. But you need to choose to seek, to explore and discover. So travel the world or your own backyard and expand your worldview and live a more rewarding life.
There are no short cuts to success or happiness. Sure, you are in control and can affect your own outcome. But nobody goes anywhere by playing it safe. Whether you’re pursuing intellectual, physical, emotional or financial success, experience dictates that you must first fail. To fail means taking a risk and accepting the notion that in order to see and realize possibilities you will have to step outside your comfort zone—take a chance. We all need to push ourselves and we all need to be pushed. When we wallow and whine about our woes, we’re pathetic and miserable. When we’re bold, confident and accepting, we succeed. Which would you rather do?
What do you really want? Prosperity? To travel the world? To write? Perhaps you would like to go out with a particular man or woman? Not satisfied with your job or career? What will make you happy? So take a chance. Go for it. Be happy. Try. And try again. You will succeed, and you will be happy.
Take Charlie Trotter, the famous Chicago chef that for 25 years has arguably run one of the best restaurants in the country—the kind you need to book a table months in advance, even in this sluggish economy. His name—his brand—is likely worth millions. However, earlier this year he announced he was shutting down his restaurant! Why? Because he wanted to travel the world and then go back to school and pursue a graduate degree in philosophy. A risky move. He did it because that’s what he wants to do. Maybe YOU want to open a restaurant. Take a chance. Do what you want to do and be happy and succeed.
This is the easiest thing on this list you can do right now to be happy and more successful. I hinted at this in #3 above, “be kind to strangers.” And though I’ve written about this before, it always bears repeating. When you smile you feel better and you make those around you feel better, too. When you feel better you have more energy and confidence. This will help and drive you to do good things, those things that will make you happy and successful.
Even better, when we smile we look better. I love watching people and often I will follow my own advice and change my environment by going to the local Starbucks to write, work and watch people. Sometimes I notice people who seemingly have put intense effort into picking out their wardrobe, with each piece and accessory meticulously thought out—except often they seem to have forgotten to wear a smile. These people put in some 90 percent of the effort to try to look good, but without the smile they are not attractive. They seem preoccupied, impatient, pompous or even lost.
While a smile will certainly makes us look and feel better, it has even greater power. Quite often during the Q&A sessions at many of my keynote speeches, I’m asked about my travels around the world alone on a motorcycle, and if I carried a weapon. My answer is simple: yes. I still carry the it. The weapon I carry weighs nothing, costs nothing and can be used without training or ammunition. Let’s face it, a smile is the ultimate weapon. It can break down virtually any barrier, especially those of language, culture and political or governmental minutia.
So there you have it. My seven tenets of a happy, successful and more rewarding life. You can start practicing today. If you prefer, start slow. But go through each of these with purpose and commitment. And get back to me, I’d love to learn and hear about your discoveries and experiences — those that will improve your perspective, expand your worldview, allow you to grow and live a more rewarding life.