If you’re happy doing what you’re doing that’s fine. If you’re not happy, it’s not. Life is far too short for you not to be happy.
We will all have some happy and some sad in our life but – on balance – we want more happy.
How To Get More Happy
I have a suggestion to help you to get more happy in any area of your life. It’s by doing something that, every time I have done it, it’s made me happy.
If I ‘move’ someone, it makes me happy.
By this I mean affecting someone emotionally in a positive way. Helping them to be calm, to see value, to see beauty or excellence. This kind of thing moves people. And their gratitude moves me. And it makes me happy.
Here’s how the idea of moving people might fit into your life.
Does your work move people? Do you see people smile and feel lovely because of what you do for a living? The thing you get paid for.
Does anything you do voluntarily move anyone? Helping out someone. Anyone. Anywhere. For free.
Do you have conversations informally that move people? Do you ever steering the conversation you’re having around to making them feel really good?
I think you can do any of these things. Or all of them.
The biggy for me is the first one though. Your work. Because you spend a lot of time at your work. If your work does not move people then that’s a shame. Not just for them, but for you too.
If you do a job or part of a job that on the face of it could never move anyone, maybe change how you look at what you do. Think further.
When people visit my office I try to be the best coffee shop in the world. We’re not. And we never will be. But I try. Cool coffee beans. Playing around with how to grind them freshly. Sourcing great coffee from people like Extract Coffee. Wee biscuits. Nice cups.
Or I could just plonk a mug of instant down of course. But that’s not going to move anyone.
Anyhow, that’s it. I just think that if you set out – tomorrow – to move people and lift their mood, you yourself will have a good day.
Firstly, this might be the most important little story on here if it is my intention to occasionally create a little bit of urgency so you take action. And that is my intention.
Secondly, I refer to a video at the end of the story. If you are reading this story in your daily email (thank you for signing up to get these stories to your inbox every day) you won’t see the video. You will have to go here to see it. That’s where the video to which I refer later actually lives.
In fact, do that now if you can. And start reading this story at the actual website, from the top.
I am sometimes gregarious. And sometimes I am not gregarious. Sometimes I don’t want to go out into the world at all.
Almost every single time I am gregarious, I have a brilliant, brilliant, brilliant time.
Almost every single time I am not gregarious, I wish I had been gregarious.
The opportunity for us to be gregarious and to connect is a gift. An absolute gift. A joy. A privilege. An honour.
Because when we connect with others we have the opportunity to create something magical.
To create something which has been proven over and over and over again to be the only recognised attributable contributor to true happiness in humans.
Relationships are amazing.
Beautiful. Magical. Joyous. Brilliant. Relationships are an opportunity to give. To support. To please. To delight. To praise. To make someone feel amazing. To be interested. To listen. To offer help for absolutely nothing at all in return. To make someone feel valued and loved and adored. To make someone smile. To make someone really, really happy.
So please, make more relationships.
Make more relationships.
So that you and they can do all these good things to and for each other. That’s all I think you should do.
Make more relationships.
There is one reason above all others that you should make more relationships. I will end with that reason in a moment.
But before I do, please listen to this 90 second video (needs sound). For a few seconds at least. Ideally, keep listening as you read the last few seconds of this story.
This is beautiful birdsong. It is the male Kauai ‘O’o bird. And that should move you.
But what should move you more, is this:
This is the song of the last male Kauai ‘O’o in existence, singing at a partner that does not exist anymore. Recorded in 1987, this was the last time the song of this species was heard. It has since been declared extinct.
This is the last male bird of the entire species. He is trying his best to attract a female.
But there is no female.
There is no other Kauai ‘O’o.
There is no one.
He is the very last one. He sings in vain.
Soon after, naturally, there were no Kauai ‘O’o birds at all.
Because You Can
The one reason above all others that you should make more relationships, and encourage more people you know to make more relationships too – is because you can.
Elle is the author of a great book entitled, ‘The Crossroads of Should and Must‘. It’s a book about finding and following your passion. A global best seller, I believe.
Elle was a big influence on me for a few reasons. She is very approachable. Elle’s really pleasant to be around. We were together for three days on-and-off in Wales.
In this time, Wales, and Elle were always sunny.
Elle is also very open about her own experiences. Some of them are quite quirky and unusual. But she talked to me about pivotal moments in her life as if I were an old friend. Elle is a very warm and engaging person to be with. Unworried about what I or anyone might think of her based on what she was sharing.
Elle was unafraid. She was just being herself. I wasn’t sure how Elle managed to be so calm.
Maybe it’s because she practices what she preaches? Elle does what she feels she Must instead of what society suggest she Should do.
Elle describes the first step towards doing what you Must do, here:
“If you want to live the fullness of your life—if you want to be free—you must understand, first, why you are not free, what keeps you from being free. The word prison comes from the Latin praehendere, meaning to seize, grasp, capture. A prison doesn’t have to be a physical place; it can be anything your mind creates. What has taken ahold of you? The natural process of socialization requires that the individual be influenced by Shoulds in order to function as a part of society. However, as you grow up, it is healthy to be self-aware about the Shoulds you inherited. You might value and keep some Shoulds, while others you might choose to discard. If you want to know Must, get to know Should. This is hard work. Really hard work. We unconsciously imprison ourselves to avoid our most primal fears. We choose Should because choosing Must is terrifying, incomprehensible. Our prison is constructed from a lifetime of Shoulds, the world of choices we’ve unwittingly agreed to, the walls that alienate us from our truest, most authentic selves. Should is the doorkeeper to Must. And just as you create your prison, you can set yourself free.”
I am grateful to Elle for introducing this idea to me – the idea that we’re all empowered to free ourselves from the prison of Shoulds – because we created the prison in the first instance.
And all I could introduced Elle to was a flat cap. Albeit very nice flat caps, though.
When I was younger, I would probably have seen 50 as ‘over the hill’. Now I’m here, I don’t.
Not because I am making the most of where I am (even though I am). It’s because I am having a ball and looking forward to every day.
So today I am going to gift you two things to say to anyone that, like a silly younger me might have done, suggests you are over the hill.
File these two suggestions away if you are not 50 yet.
Because one day – you will be.
Suggestion 1. What To Do If Someone Suggests You Are ‘Over The Hill’
“I am. I’ve eventually (thank God!) worked out how to have a ball, every day, skating down the other side. Downhill is so much easier than uphill. Anyhow, I’ll leave you to your too-long meetings and trying to stand on the next man to get up the hill. I remember all that from my hill climbing days. It was shit. Where I am now – because I choose the people I spend my time with – we just take each other by the hand and bowl down the hill together. Laughing our bloody heads off. Oh, and feck off.”
(Note: This is the aggressive version. And the ending is optional. It’s your journey).
Suggestion 2. What To Do If Someone Suggests You Are ‘Over The Hill’
“What hill is that? Is that the old metaphor about the hill of life? I am over that, as it happens. I was over it years ago. The metaphor, not the hill. Try it. It’s great. Oh, and feck off.”
(Note: This is the aggressive version. And the ending is optional. It’s your journey).
There’s a lot of good advice about. If we filter out the rubbish. And if we listen properly.
Some advice that will definitely have been given to you already, and that you have probably given to others, is:
Live every day as if it were your last.
And sure. This is great advice.
But I think I can do better.
Live every day as if it were your first.
I prefer this edited version. Remembering innocence, and the freedom and space to learn that this can bring. It’s inspired by my 2 year old Izobel.
Izobel asks the same questions over and over until she understands. She is never embarrassed by this repetition. She falls over, laughs and gets up again. And because Izobel has no concept of her own limitations she pushes most things that she does to failure. Then learns by what she did wrong. This, of course includes, painting herself with soup and going to the toilet in the bread aisle at Morrisons. But because Izobel has no experience or understanding of the judgment of others, and the pain and paralysis that we allow ourselves to feel as a result of such things as we get older, she is oblivious to the apparent wrongness of what she is doing right now.
This frees her. She is learning infinitely more, infinitely faster than I am.
And I am 48 years older than Izobel.
Or should that be, ‘because I am 48 years older than Izobel’?
So I suggest you change the last word of this age old advice.
Live each day as if it were your first.
Be endlessly and agelessly curious. From today if you like. Do something new. Especially if you’ve been thinking about it for a while now.
Be like Izobel.
Read the big paragraph above back to yourself.
Do everything Izobel does.
Apart from wetting your pants by the bagels in Morrisons.
Leave that bit out.
(Or go to Aldi. They don’t mind you doing it there, I find).
My office is next door to Pleased To Meet You, a Gin Bar in the centre of Newcastle.
Yesterday, when I walked past at about 6.30am there was a man cleaning the inside of the windows.
He was concentrating hard, frowning and focusing at the exact spot on the inside of the window that his chamois leather was wiping.
The thing I noticed most though was, his tongue was out. His glare didn’t shift from the movement of the leather. And as he wiped left, then right, then left again – his tongue wiped in the air too.
Left, right. Left, right. His pointy tongue swept in time with his hand.
It was funny. I am glad I noticed it. It really made me smile.
What I didn’t notice yesterday (even though I imagine they were there – they’re always there) were half eaten kebabs next to bins instead of in them, selfishly parked cars without parking tickets, nice (but forgetful) people’s cars with parking tickets and maybe even a discarded empty purse or two, stolen then discarded by last night’s pickpocket.
I didn’t notice them because, yesterday, I wasn’t looking for them.
Where all this is leading is to a very short but very poignant thing that I read recently. You have probably read it too. I just wanted to point out that, well, it’s true.
Whatever you look for – you will find.
Opportunity. Dead ends. Kindness. Cruelty. Flowers. Dog shit.
Look closely enough. And of course – you’ll find it eventually.
Today, I will notice what I notice. And I will choose wisely.
I’ll listen to the people I meet as well. I will listen whether they choose to tell me about the last thing they complained about in a coffee shop, or a funny man with a wipey tongue in a bar window.
I will notice what you notice. And other will, too.
Just as the key ingredient of coffee is beans, a key ingredient of my day-to-day is decision making.
I’ll let you know about the worst decisions I ever made in just a moment, because they all fall into one category.
Decision Making As You Get Older
I think decision making as you get older gets harder. For two reasons.
Firstly, because you’re cleverer, more experienced and are more likely understand the implications of a good decision over a bad one. All of this means you have more options, which can be rather confusing. A series of ‘what if’s’ result from this. And, instead of lighting you up, (‘wow there’s so much I can do!’) – the ‘what if’s’ close you down.
Secondly, as we all become increasingly aware of our own mortality (1000 months) – decisions get heavier. There is an increasing ‘foreverness’ to them. Because as we get older we learn that there is no ‘forever’ – there is just our ‘forever’ which is (and I know this sounds like a contradiction) finite.
The Worst Decisions I Ever Made
All of that said, I know all of the worst decisions I ever made. Every one.
The worst decisions I ever made were, ‘no decision’.
When 2008 came, I reacted quickly. I shifted the shape of my business. Changed the way we chased goals. Became leaner. All within a week. Great decisions!
But then I didn’t make any further key decisions for about 6 months. I just waited to see if the clouds would pass or if this was the new norm.
And guess what, we didn’t progress much. We floated.
Opting to tread water at a time when everything around is morphing – some drowning and others speedboating ahead – is a silly strategy.
And all this is boils down to responsibility I think.
If I want something to change, I have to change it. So I need to make some decisions.
Anyhow. I’ve decided to go now. And do some proper work. Which will involve making more decision.
I have a lot to think about with our business at the moment. Green shoots appear. And we deliver our brand promise with customers every single time. They really do feel great when they wear our clothing. I know this because customers tell me. That’s perfect for me. It’s delivering on our ‘why’.
Our clothing brand exists to make people feel confident enough to live the life they love. To do their thing. That’s our purpose.
But, I tell you, running a small business is hard.
I should have known better. I’ve run a few business-to-business brands. Over about 20 years. I was good at that. And I am now finding out how good I am at this new business-to-consumer brand. In arguably the world’s hardest category in which to build and maintain a differentiated brand – fashion.
The clouds can appear when I sit back and really think about everything at the same time. Progress. Sales. Design. Momentum. Focus. Clarity. Consistency.
I am revisiting the whole business plan this week. So I have to look at all of these things. And more. Together.
I have to remind myself that when we look closely at something, really closely, we will always find things we can do better. But, naturally, I don’t like looking at the broken or underperforming bits of, well, anything.
It affects my outlook. Maybe you are the same? Having to be in the 20% that doesn’t work can, after a while, feel gloomy.
I don’t want a gloomy outlook.
So luckily, as I am (deep down) little more than a child in grown up’s clothing, my imagination helped me out this morning. At about 5am.
I have always said that if I ever had a coffee shop, I’d put this sign in the window:
We have great toilets. They’re for customers and not-yet customers. When you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go! You are welcome to use our facilities whether you are buying this time, or next time. Just keep them shiny. Have a great day.
I think we’d sell more coffee that way. I don’t know of course, but I’d like to think we would.
Highest not Lowest
Think the best of people not the worst.
Set your life up for the highest common denominator, not the lowest.
Do the opposite of those that live in continual fear of the fools and the thieves.
Set your life up for the generous and the loving.
Preparing for being diddled or fiddled feels wrong to me. It puts you on the defensive. It changes you from warm to cold. Your eyes change.
My good friend Pete Zulu runs The Black Horse, a cool pub in East Boldon, North East UK. It’s filled with beautiful and interesting things. Books, guitars, ornaments, weird pieces of clothing and memorabilia. All on show. Nothing nailed down. All ripe for nicking.
And whilst I am sure the fools and the thieves do pinch things, most don’t. And if you are one of the ‘most’ – you smile. It’s a wonderful place.
Pete is a good man. With endless respect from me and others for what he is and does. He has many great friends. All of which, I am sure, would ‘have a word’ if they experienced any fool or thief taking something that was not their’s from Pete’s pub. I certainly would.
And I think all this is connected.
Do The Opposite
Do lock your bike when you pop into Tesco’s Extra.
But I wonder what happens when you offer the lady that cleans the communal kitchen at work a cup of freshly ground coffee from your office, because she is looking tired, instead of dumping your dirty plates in the sink and ignoring her?
I wonder what happens when you try really hard to usher every single other person in the bus queue safely onto the bus before you, with a smile and and jig and wavy arms, instead of sticking to your place or elbowing to get on as soon as you can?
I wonder what happens when you take empty beer glasses from your table back to the bar and, with a smile, ask for a cloth to wipe your own table whilst the busy boy or girl serving does their thing. Then thank them sincerely?
I’ll let you know. Or you let me know. Either way – let’s do it.