How Can You Sentence Yourself to Happiness?
The secret to happiness is freedom…And the secret to freedom is courage.
There was a time in my life where I put happiness into the future. I was always working towards a goal without enjoying much of this day-to-day ride called “life.” I was so busy delivering that it took a brush with mortality to answer the two most important questions of all:
- “What is the meaning of life?”
- “What do I want to do with my life?”
No one has the right to answer these questions on our behalf. But, it happens all the time.
Since 1990, we have taken people on a journey that defines what they most want to do with their lives. The program helps them craft a clear understanding in how they are going to bring their vision to life. In many cases, we also help orchestrate their practical success.
When someone defines the work that will bring them meaning and happiness, they naturally become more motivated to master the life skills that will bring their mission and purpose into practical reality. At the other end of the spectrum when our livelihood is, “just a job,” there isn’t much motivation to grow, change or practice any courage at all. As in all romances, hating our work isn’t the opposite of loving what we do with our lives. Disbelief and ambivalence are far more potent opposites.
One of the more common obstacles towards establishing happiness as adults is in getting past obsolete standards about work. The standards were foisted on us by well-meaning adults. What are those standards exactly? The standards began as a recruitment pitch from the long-dead industrial revolution. The world’s industrialists, politicians, religious leaders and educators had to come up with something that would motivate people to leave their homes, cobbler shops and fields. So, they promised that if they filled up the factories, workers would be rewarded with predictability and survival.
For over 300 years, most everyone marketed these standards. Parents became some of the standards most evangelical messengers. In my home, no one made a living doing music. I was to become a doctor, even though I have consistently passed-out when dissecting anything from a bug to a cadaver.
In my early 20s, I needed a job so I looked at my friends and selected the one who was making the most money. She helped me get a position in staffing. I seemed to have a knack for the work and became a senior executive for the next 13 years. But, my primary motivation wasn’t staffing, it was to lead an abundant lifestyle while working towards a recording contract. For years, I often brought costume changes to work so I could replace my suits with another outfit for the clubs. Six months before I launched Inspired Work, I got “the call.” A highly respected producer named Lyman Underwood had just inherited a trunkload of money and was launching a new label with Warner Brothers. He asked if I would become their first artist. Not only had my ship come in, it seemed perfectly docked.
Lyman and I became good friends. We had spent a lot of our time in the human potential movement and had wanted to make a difference in this world. Beyond our day-to-day work of crafting an album, I looked forward to talking about all that we would do together. One morning, I was slouching into my home from a long run and the phone was ringing. It was Lyman’s girlfriend. She began convulsively crying. The day before, they were getting ready to go to a party. Lyman walked to the bottom of the stairs, smiled at her, and dropped dead of a heart attack. We were both 37 years old.
Sometimes we are pulled by vision. Sometimes we are pushed by pain. This shocking and awful news led to one of the most sobering insights of my life. For years, I had pushed happiness into the future. I was always working towards happy times but my day-to-day experience of life fell far short of those visions. In fact, I realized that I knew nothing of value in how to build a life that is based on happiness right here and now. While I didn’t know it at the time, Inspired Work was born at the moment I learned Lyman had left us.
Robert F. Kennedy summed up our nation’s pursuit of predictability and survival. In 1968, he urged Americans to think about how we measure what makes a country great. He said the Gross National Product doesn’t measure the health of our children, the beauty of our poetry, our courage, our wisdom, or our compassion. In other words, ‘It measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”
For most of us, work is the biggest relationship that we have. The quality of that relationship has direct impact on the quality of our happiness as well as every other relationship in our lives. Come on! We spend most of our waking hours getting ready for, commuting to, being at, coming home, and recovering from work. Consequently, settling for survival and predicability rarely gives us the juice that turns life into a fulfilling journey.
When someone comes to our two-day program, they enter an exercise in self-loyalty, of differentiating between the superficial beliefs that were imposed on us and the unique career DNA that is embedded within all of us. I’ve watched the breakthrough so many times that I come to believe that until we examine our lives, to varying degrees, we are living other people’s lives.
So, if settling for predictability and survival is so limiting, how do we move people beyond these one-size-fits-all standards?
Much of the intent is captured in their first written exercise entitled,
Irrevocable means “can’t be taken away.” It is non-negotiable.
If you were happy all of the time, how would you use that time? What would you do with your life? What kind of people would be in your circle? What you would look like? What would you do for fun? How much money would you make and have? Where would you live? If you wanted to make a difference, what would that be? Would you have children? Would you be married or not? To who?
Every response to irrevocable happiness is unique and often, that definition becomes one of cascade of insights leading to real and meaningful change. From these observations, I have come to the conclusion that great careers are not about fitting in, they come out of defining the unique career DNA that is inside each and every one of us. By watching these patterns if change, I’ve come to the conclusion that until we examine our lives, to varying degrees we are living other people’s lives.
After this initial exercise the program and environment helps every person craft a clear career path. But, it also ends with a fully practical ways to bring everything together. Over the years, people have launched business for the first time, they have gone back to their jobs and become vividly successful. they have left jobs for new and better venues, some go back to school, a few have retired and devoted themselves to philanthropy. 14 have married other participants.
Yes! I love what I do!
It takes courage to do what we love. It takes courage to change. It takes a bit of courage to shed superficial beliefs. But accelerating change around us is forcing the issue. The payoff for changing ourselves is huge. We see it in the parent who was commuting four hours a day and now makes more money in less time from her home. She describes her work as “fun.” We see it in the individual who always wanted to make a difference and now does just that as a highly successful social entrepreneur. We witness the young man who calls and says, “I can’t believe I get paid to do this.” We find it in people like me who could not get traction in the music industry only to find a purpose that changed everything.
A year ago, I had lunch with my last boss. We hadn’t seen each other in years. Gail owned one of the most successful staffing companies in the country. Today, she is a celebrated artist. Fearless was her middle name. When she sat down, Gail’s first words were, “What is it like to wake up in the morning?” I asked her what she meant by the question and she added, “David, your work has touched thousands of people’s lives. What is it like to wake up to that?”
I opened my mouth and tears flowed with the words. I said, “It feels like redemption.”
When I was born, I was given to a crazy and violent adoptive home. When my friend died, the years of pursuing a career in the recording industry came to an end. There were many times in my life where I felt I was a man of little promise. I was far too burdened by the wounds from my past. But, realzing the work that I was born to do became the first effective motivation to heal, to take responsibility and become better versions of myself, to find new role models and seek the very mentors that brought change to my life.
When we commit to something that is bigger than ourselves, we become far more motivated to change.
Take out a clean notebook or sheet of paper and write with as much detail as possible. What it would look like for you to live in a state of Irrevocable Happiness? Trust your hand, tell the truth, stick with it, see where it takes you. If there is anything in there that you want to bring to life, please feel free to reach out to us.