People often see me driving my 2007 Honda Civic, rocking my Old Navy jeans, and talking on my Blackberry Pearl, and they ask me, “Hey, Greg, how did you get so fricking successful?” Great question.
I’m so freaking successful because I’m so freaking happy.
How happy am I? I’m so happy, I only text message using emoticons, toddlers playing with bubbles are clinically depressed compared to me, and I take Ecstasy when I need to get serious.
Please note that I’m not happy because I’m successful. I’m successful because I’m happy.
In the must-read book The Happiness Advantage¹, Shawn Achor says, “Most individuals follow a formula that has been subtly or not so subtly taught to them … That is: If you work hard, you will become successful, and once you become successful, then you’ll be happy. … Thanks to cutting-edge science, we now know that happiness is the precursor to success, not merely the result.”
Happiness is not necessarily the result of success, but happiness is a primary determinant of success.
WRONG: Once my firm takes off, then I’ll be happy.
RIGHT: If I figure out how to be truly happy, that’s when my firm is most likely to take off.
So how does one acquire pre-success happiness?
#1 – DON’T BE A LONER
The greatest predictor of success and happiness [is your] social support network. Countless studies have found that social relationships are the best guarantee of heightened well-being and lowered stress, both an antidote for depression and a prescription for high performance.
There’s a difference between being an introvert and being a loner. An introvert doesn’t seek out the spotlight. An introvert prefers to initially process ideas and problems internally. An introvert’s energy is increased with time alone. Regardless, an introvert can have a strong social network. In fact, introverts often have stronger interpersonal connections with a smaller number of people (whereas extroverts can have tons of friends but the connections are not as deep).
A loner has little social support at all, and the data show that the loner will have a lower quality of life, will experience fewer successes, and will have a shorter lifespan. The best way to not die miserable and alone is to start by not being alone.
#2 – IDENTIFY AND PURSUE YOUR CALLING
People with a calling view work as an end in itself; their work is fulfilling not because of external rewards but because they feel it contributes to the greater good, draws on their personal strengths, and gives them meaning and purpose.
Your calling is the thing you were meant to do. Your calling is (1) an activity that you are uniquely skilled to accomplish, (2) an activity that you love to engage in, and (3) an activity that makes the world a better place for others.
Very often, “finding your calling” is actually a realization that what you are already doing is a calling. Are you a kick-ass CPA? Do you love your job? Are you making your customers’ lives better as a result of what you’re doing? Then you have a calling. Start living like it.
#3 – BE GRATEFUL
Countless studies have shown that consistently grateful people are more energetic, emotionally intelligent, forgiving, and less likely to be depressed, anxious, or lonely. … Gratitude has proven to be a significant cause of positive outcomes. When researchers pick random volunteers and train them to be more grateful … they become happier and more optimistic, feel more socially connected, enjoy better quality sleep, and even experience fewer headaches than control groups.
And the great thing about becoming a consistently grateful person is that it’s something you can just do. Just be more grateful. How? One great technique that I use is a Moleskine journal that I keep by my bed. I don’t let myself go to sleep until I’ve listed three great things that happened during the day. Sometimes I list five or six. Sometimes it’s hard to come up with three, but I can always complete the list with some good things, things I’m grateful for.
Maybe all this is too touchy-feely for you because you’re not Melinda Guillemette. And maybe you’re thinking about all those people whose general lack of happiness is what gives them the drive they need to pursue success. Unfortunately those people are doomed to be miserable until they realize that happiness without success is better than success without happiness.
¹It’s a respectable book, published by Harvard Business Press. No, wait. It was published by Crown Business, but the author was an R.A. at Harvard. Just trust me. It was neither self-published nor published by Oprah.
Greg was born in Akron, Ohio, in the shadow of the Firestone tire factory. He began to swim competitively when he was eight, swimming for the Mountlake Terrace Lemmings. He graduated in 1995 from the University of Washington with a math degree. He chose math for the ladies. After serving ten-years as an 8th grade math teacher, he decided it was time for a career change, mainly because he “couldn’t stand those little bastards.” He began his accounting career with a local CPA firm in Orem, Utah, where he consistently failed the QuickBooks ProAdvisor advanced certification exam. Greg currently works as the Controller for the Utah Valley Physicians Plaza. He lives in Provo, Utah, with his wife and two kids. He enjoys eating maple bars, drinking Diet Pepsi, and swearing.