10 Tips for Happiness

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a guest post by a very dear friend of mine.  I’ve known him for many years now, and in the last two or three months I’ve witnessed him transform from a negative, pessimistic, bored, and unmotivated person to a positive, happy, driven, don’t-take-no-for-an-answer type of guy.  I asked him what was the cause of his big turnaround.  He responded with the post I’ve included below.  I’m honored to be the host of this wonderful collection of inspiring advice.  And I hope many of you can relate and benefit from his advice as well.

1) Procrastination is bad. If you’re unhappy, your state of mind often won’t change without an effort to actively seek change. The days, weeks and months go by and then you might wonder how you’ve endured a situation for so long. Negative emotions build over time and you may feel increasingly trapped. Taking control of your situation immediately could be the first step to happiness.

2) Plan your financial situation for the long-term. If quitting your job is what you need to move on to the next step in your life, that decision is unlikely if you don’t have some savings. Quitting a job without another employment opportunity lined up is sometimes necessary because it makes available more time to search for other opportunities and can contribute to your general happiness, making you more confident and allow you to project a better attitude to all who you encounter, including potential employers. Maybe sleeping on a friend’s couch for a few months is an option; there are many to explore.

3) Beware of emphasizing money as your guiding factor in life. Obviously money has varying importance in people’s lives. For people who have a spouse or dependents to support, money could be of greater necessity than someone who is single. If it means your income must go down to increase your happiness, and you can still live comfortably, it’s probably a healthy decision.

4) Continually challenge yourself (Never be intimated). Being confident can allow someone to make decisions they truly desire, but are difficult decisions to execute. As long as you’re being respectful and not harming others, recognize what you wish you could do and set incremental challenges for yourself to meet those goals. There will be setbacks, but with perseverance, in challenging yourself, you will build your confidence and probably your happiness.

5) Seeing decisions as binary can cause anxiety. Success and happiness are never reduced to one situation. Some people choose to define themselves by certain achievements like going to a particular school, working at a particular company or getting a particular score on a test. Most people don’t get exactly what they want and rather than allowing a disruption in plans to depress, it’s important to slow down, be creative and think about your range of options. What seems like a disappointment in the present could be a blessing in the future, or a detriment, depending on how the situation is approached.

6) Consulting professionals or friends for advice is helpful. Consulting professionals is expensive and consulting friends is not, so considering what you can afford is as important as considering which path can provide the most assistance.

7) Don’t be afraid of the unknown. Sometimes experiencing life without a grand plan can be a rewarding emotional experience. In our very structured society there is always a need to plan. Just because society emphasizes having a detailed plan does not mean you have to (in the short-term).

8) Focus on projecting positive energy. With friends, colleagues, family…. It’s healthier and emotionally easier to be happy. Determine your plan to maintain happiness. One example, there’s evidence that regular exercise increases positive emotions. If you tend to be negative, devise a plan.

9) Don’t blame yourself. If your life isn’t going as planned, don’t enter a downward spiral by attributing all perceived failures as your fault. If you are blaming yourself, you’re probably ignoring your many accomplishments. Be balanced with self-critique. Use it as a tool to make your future decisions.

10) Comparing yourself to others serves no logical purpose. Acknowledge who you are and what makes you unique, both positive and negative qualities. Placing your accomplishments only in the context of others is harmful, regardless of whether you’re doing it to belittle or build-up yourself.

Leaders: Inspire Confidence

I was first introduced to the phrase “inspire confidence” a long time ago.  I didn’t really know what the term meant until I went through a period where I lacked confidence in myself.  A leader needs to inspire confidence, because confident people are better employees in every single way.

When we’re confident we’re not scared to express ourselves — we don’t feel an urge to dampen our abilities by looking for approval elsewhere.  We’re not scared to publish a blog post or send an email without a review first.  We’re not scared to refactor a shit load of code.  We’re not scared to take a meeting with a big customer, or try a new, bold way of marketing something.  Confidence, in addition to enabling more happiness, sets us up to do beautiful, innovative things.

I can’t help but think of Burning Man when I think of confidence.  As I’ve said before, Burning Man is in part about radical self expression.  That self expression comes out because people don’t have social pressure that would otherwise impact their confidence.  There is no social norm at Burning Man, and hence all someone can be is their self.  The result is beautiful, innovative, and clever art.

If you’re in a position of influence, do your best to inspire confidence among your team.  The entire team will be happier, more innovative, and ultimately better employees.  And they’ll like you more for it, too.

This TED talk is somewhat relevant to inspiring confidence.  It talks about inspiring happiness and positivity, which goes very much along with inspiring confidence.

The Evil Wolf and the Good Wolf

My good friend Aaron shared a really neat parable with me that I wanted to share here.  It was originally found on Quora.

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Another Year of Heli-Boarding

I was fortunate enough to go heli-boarding with my dad for the fourth time last week in British Columbia.  Unlike most of the US, Canada has been getting dumped on, and every day we were up there we got snowed on.  This year may have trumped last year, which somehow seems impossible.  Anyway, they say pictures speak a thousand words, which means videos must speak millions of words.  Here’s the video from this year.  I’m reminded how much I love snowboarding and adrenaline sports in general.  Snowboarding inspires me just as doing a startup does.  (I’d suggest viewing the video on youtube in HD – for some reason I can’t embed the HD version.)

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video