It’s simple to be happy and simple to be financially successful. Accomplishing both simultaneously is complicated.
In 2019, our business produced a profit of $346,116, a 74% drop from the previous year. While that may sound good if you’re just starting out in business, it represented a terrible 1.5% net profit margin, not good for a business that had been around for many years like ours.
In 2020, I took back over as CEO and hustled. We produced a net profit of around $3 million that year. This huge increase was great. However, toward the end of the year, I noticed results starting to slip again.
Growing this business felt like pushing a giant boulder up a hill. I was getting burnt out and didn’t want to resort to the same micro-managing, stress-inducing tactics to produce results I used at similar times in the past. That type of leadership hurts the long-term capabilities of our team members and make me miserable.
So I decided to do an experiment. I called it The Happy Leader Project.
Success vs. Happiness
Happiness researcher and author of The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor, believes happiness makes financial success possible.
I believe the two are separate. You can be happy, but not financially successful (talk to thousands of yoga teachers). You can also be financially successful, but miserable like many business leaders.
I want both happiness and financial success. Since you’re reading this blog, I imagine you do too.
We want to be happy and joyful as much as possible. We also want continual financial growth, freedom, and abundance.
Here’s what I think it takes for each:
The ingredients for long-term, reliable happiness:
- Be present (get in flow, meditate, play a sport regularly, tend to a garden, or read)
- Tell the truth to others and yourself (lies eat us up inside)
- Avoid drugs and alcohol (both can lead to bad decisions misaligned with our values)
- Do what you say you will do (unfulfilled obligations also eat us up inside)
- Socialize with good people and avoid negative people
- Treat people well
- Live within your financial means
On the other hand, here’s what is required for long-term financial success:
- Save more than you spend
- Invest your money
- Learn constantly (mistakes are inevitable, we must keep learning)
- Aim to make good, rational financial decisions
As we can see, it’s possible to be happy or successful. Our goal is to integrate the two and achieve both.
The 12-Month Experiment
Starting in January 2020, I began to experiment with one activity per month to boost long-term success and happiness.
Here’s the list:
- January: Happy money
- February: Autonomy
- March: Look for the Positive
- April: Being present & single-tasking
- May: Generosity & acts of kindness
- June: Meditation
- July: Progress
- August: Honesty
- September: Purpose / living for something beyond yourself
- October: Good relationships
- November: Deserve what you want
- December: Putting it all together – a process for reliable success & happiness
How did it go? It’s been a difficult, indirect journey to greater happiness and success.
In future blog posts, I’ll fill you in on some of the lessons learned.
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