How One Standard Gave Me a New Life
In the Inspired Work Program, we provide an exercise called, “Irrevocable Happiness.” In it, we ask our participants to describe, in detail, what their lives would look like if they were in a constant state of happiness. In other words, what would your life look like if you were sentenced to joy?
We find the exercise has a unique answer with every single person. If they give it a great deal of care, the results can be life-changing. Of course, I was the first one to write out a definition.
Years ago, I wrote, “I want to work exclusively with brilliant and loving people.” The sentence changed my life. Before establishing this standard, I put up with everyone. There has been a huge payoff. Yesterday morning, I worked with my colleague Mary. When we met, she was the chief talent officer at USC, a brilliant and kind leader with fierce intelligence, passion, and a deep-seated commitment to change the world around her. Where I sometimes use an ax and a blowtorch, Mary works courageously with kid gloves, probably from Prada.
This morning, I read her rewrite on a book project we are working on together. I see her heart and her soul in the words. Tuesday, she leaves for Africa to sit in the jungle with gorillas. I said, “You haven’t seen the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel yet or sat on the stern of a steamship in Lake Como, sipping an espresso. But, that is my irrevocable happiness, not hers.
There is an old quote from human development:
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
This morning, I’m feeling particularly grateful. I’ve managed to find a very high average. It began by defining what true happiness would be like on my terms. Today, it is personified by friends and family members who fuel tremendous growth and love me into meeting the highest standards.
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