Commit to your own happiness

Our TEC membership in Wisconsin lost two valued members and highly respected CEOs recently, one in a tragic motorcycle accident and one after a courageous fight with cancer.

Sad events like these always cause us to pause and take stock of our lives. I almost lost my life to a “heart stop” incident last February.

Thanks to my good friend and TEC resource Bill Boggs of Bill Boggs Productions in New York, for inspiring this article. Much of its content has originated with his thinking after he interviewed very prominent and respected celebrities and business leaders over the past 30 years.

What are the four “Win-Wins” of Life? Boggs believes, from the literally thousands of interviews he has conducted, it has these components:

  • Achieving success.
  • Conquering adversity.
  • Balancing risk/failure.
  • Enjoying a happy life.

Achieving success

It seems like an elusive goal for many because it’s usually perceived in an all-or-nothing fashion. You’re either successful for many reasons or unsuccessful for many reasons.

Boggs’ interpretation is quite different. Successful people measure their success in small daily “chunks.” Essentially, each day begins with a commitment to accomplish an objective that can be declared “done” at the end of the day.

For example, let’s assume you are writing a novel. You have your characters defined, your protagonist and antagonist identified, and you know the part they will play in the novel’s plot. If you force yourself each day to write one page, no matter what the circumstances are, chances are you’ll complete the novel.

But if you take the attitude that each day you need to write an entire chapter and make a significant dent in your novel’s progress, it becomes easy to rationalize why any particular day isn’t a good day to make that happen.

And so it is with business goals, personal exercise objectives, what you eat and when you eat, and so on. You are the chief architect of what constitutes your success, and if you believe you are successful, it will be reflected in your self-image and your self-esteem.

Conquering adversity

Adversity comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s anticipated. Other times, it’s a complete surprise. What we do know is that the response to adversity is far more critical than the adversity itself. We also know that no one goes through life without encountering adversity.

We can personally control three particular aspects of adversity. These are “mind over matter” issues to be sure, but they’re central to successfully confronting and overcoming adversity.

First, in the face of adversity, whether in business life or personal life, we must be willing to adapt and change. We must adapt to the adverse situation and then we must change to defeat the source of the adverse situation.

For example, let’s assume that we just lost a key account to a competitor, with a substantial loss of gross margin in the process. We know that, as a first step, we must decide how to adapt to this loss and sustain our overall business. And then, as a second step, what changes we will have to make as a result of the loss.

The steps we take must be measured and definitive, such as immediate cost reduction actions, plans to regain the business from the competitor, steps to obtain new business, etc. And going back to Boggs’ success formula, we must do these things incrementally, one day at a time, in “little chunks.”

Balancing risk and failure

One of the main reasons successful people excel is because they are willing to take calculated risks. That includes the potential, if not probable, risk of failure.

Failure has a higher potential in risk avoidance. It’s all a matter of statistical probabilities and, yes, luck. Let’s look at another example.

A close friend and TEC member learned that his wife had inoperable kidney cancer. They went to Cancer Centers of America for a second diagnosis. Cancer Centers uses integrative techniques, including medicine and mental therapy.

They were given the pros and cons of proceeding with chemotherapy and radiation, given the fact she was stage 4. So here we are “risk/failure.”

They decided to go for the treatments, even though the process would be horribly painful, and with no guarantee of success. The result?

Five years later, she is doing quite well, thank you. The risk, essentially, justified the reward. Can you think of parallels in your personal or business life?

Enjoying a happy life

When I was 14 years old, my good old dad, now 91, told me that if you aren’t happy with what you’re doing, get out of that situation. If you stay in it, it will kill you, son!

Part of that orderliness involves laughing, spontaneous joy and glee, when we hear something that’s really funny.

Happiness is a component of this spontaneous response, but a joke itself has only a temporary impact at the “fun” level. True happiness incorporates sadness but overwhelms it.

So if we lose a loved one and grieve, psychologists say a year is normal for the loss of a spouse before we eventually learn how to laugh again, and “move on with life.” We learn to restore happiness in our life, and this is good. Anyone disagree?

Feeling happy is a human condition. It affects how we feel about ourselves, and it affects how others around us perceive us to be. It is life sustaining, not life draining.

An action plan for all of us

We have these five components of a “win-win” in our lives. How do we translate this to practical action steps? Boggs offers these questions to ask ourselves:

  • Am I caving in now in any way that is making me unhappy? How can I reverse it? How can I wake up every day saying I am happy?
  • Have I let a moment of inspiration pass, where I had the opportunity but did not act upon it? How can I do this, daily, with my inspiration, one little chunk at a time?
  • What is my deepest aspiration right now? Am I on a path toward it, or am I rationalizing why I can’t reach toward it on a daily basis?
  • What question could I ask of those people closest to me that could change their lives? Questions that truly reflect the “win-wins” of life?
  • Finally, if I size myself up on these “win-wins,” what can I do to incrementally go from here to there? What’s my first step starting tomorrow?

However we cut the mustard, we are all vulnerable. When we are younger, there’s a sense of invincibility. As we get older and see family, friends and business associates suffer, we realize that our vulnerability is real and our invincibility is a fantasy.

This article is about maximizing the value of our lives for ourselves and others. I hope it causes you to pause and reflect. You will be a much better person and a much better business leader if you do.

As a gentleman who owns a chain of well-known men’s clothing stores says, “I guarantee it!”

Harry S. Dennis III is the chairman and CEO of TEC Wisconsin/Michigan. TEC is a professional development group for CEOs, presidents and business owners. He can be reached at (262) 821-3340.

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