Last week I stumbled on a documentary promoted by Starbucks simply entitled “Happiness.” What I loved about it was that it was being discussed by neuroscientists and psychologists using empirical research. Two findings stood out for me. First, that money does play a part in happiness but only to a certain level. They showed that money makes a significant impact for those earning less than $50K a year. Money here, allowed people to take care of necessary life requirements such as shelter and food. But for those making over $50K, no amount of additional purchasing power necessary led to that intrinsic happiness we all seek and often claim as the reason to work harder and make more money. The second finding was a global review of people who, according to the happiness instrument/survey being used, had the highest scores of intrinsic happiness. One was a taxi driver in Calcutta, India. His taxi was a manual carriage that he put around his shoulders and moved customers with his legs across town. He lived in a shack on the outskirt of town in essentially in one-room make-shift home. He had a smile on his face every day because of the joy he had with his family and neighbors. The other was a 60+ year old surfer in Brazil who had been surfing his whole life. And another was a tribe in the desert of Namibia who had essentially lived the same way for hundreds of years. There were others of similar profiles that one would not think, at first pass, as candidates for the happiest people in the world. When interviewed, they spoke of their happiness in simple but powerful terms.
As you begin the second month of 2013, I want to discourage you from reading any more leadership books for the remainder of the year. I also want to discourage you, for this year, not to attend any more leadership training. Refuse it if it is being offered to you at work. This year, focus on Happiness books and training. Happiness and leadership are not the same, and my guess is that you have never been to a seminar on happiness. When Harvard offered a class on Happiness a couple of years ago, it was the most sought-after class on campus. Instead of trying to lead, try to make others happy. Shift the paradigm. Start your own happiness revolution. As the documentary showed, it is in fact the best way to be a leader – make others happy, and they will follow you through whatever challenge you want to face.