Happiness…Not The Luxury You Thought It Was!



   I watched the TED video above with great reservation after a friend told me:  ”Matt this is a very good video about happiness in the workplace, it’s what you’ve been saying for the past 13 years in your organizational analysis and consultation business!”  There it is – I continued in skeptical thought: ”Everyone thinks they’re an expert in behavioural psychology because they picked up a book, or read an article, or in this case watched a TED talk.”  I must confess I occasionally fall victim to this level of cynical reaction, especially when people are passionately trying to teach or share something with me they think I haven’t heard of before.  In this case however, my cynical nature wasn’t fully aroused because I knew this would be something I could add onto what I’ve been advocating for a long time.

   None the less, there I was watching a short TED video and still found myself a bit cynical of the presenter (Shawn Achor).  Another speaker, another message, and the same questions in my mind:  ”Why should anyone listen to anything he’s saying? Will this talk be relevant to people’s lives?  People’s organizational lives (work, school, non-profits) are stressful places where the demands and expectations are overwhelming and never ending. And he wants people to smile through it all?!!  Does he really expect them to be happy when they’re stuck in environments they don’t want to be in?  With coworkers they don’t like?  And supervisors that are ill equipped to lead?!  Really?!!”  (The irony of course being these are the questions I fear the most when it’s ME as the consultant and/or guest speaker on this same topic)! 


   …Afterall isn’t happiness a theoretical dream that can only happen when a person is wealthy & powerful enough not to care about others?  Or even worse, if we decided to just drop everything and focus on happiness, wouldn’t we end up being poor and desolate? Without anxiety and pressure, how can we produce anything that leads to the wealth and power which ultimately frees us from our unhappiness? …Or to put it another way:  Isn’t happiness simply a luxury we can’t afford?


   Most people reading this article are intelligent enough to try and skip ahead to what they know is the ‘right answer’ –> ‘‘Yes, absolutely I need happiness otherwise all those bad things I saw and heard on talk shows will happen to me!  Yup I’m super duper happy, look at me…happy happy happy!”  (Thankfully most people are equally intelligent and perceptive enough to know when somebody is genuine and when somebody is in horrible denial of their actual feelings).


   This past week I had a great conversation with an elderly gentleman who asked me what I did for a living.  I excitedly told him about http://www.mattsilver.ca, and couldn’t help but share some of the things I enjoy most about my company.  His response really caught me off guard:  ”Oh no, so I bet people are worried and don’t like seeing you come into their organizations huh?”  I thought I must not have properly explained how my company’s focus was on helping organizational mission statements, teams, and personnel placement for the purposes of increasing their productivity and satisfaction levels.  So I tried once again with even greater emphasis on how good things have turned out for my clients and their organizational environments.  His response was still not what I expected:  ‘‘Yeah but when people see you come into their organization, it means things are going to change and they probably won’t like that very much.”


   Of course I wanted to debate that point, but I realized, he’s right!  We as a society have become so comfortable in our environments of unhappiness that we simply accept it as the norm.  Furthermore, we actually believe the lie that was earlier mentioned:  If we don’t live a life of pressures, demands, guilt, frustration then how would we know if we’re working at our best?  This is an incredibly destructive lie many (dare I say most of us) have bought into.  At our workplaces we believe we need to work ”hard”, not work ”happily”.  In our schools and educational institutions we reward those that ”persevere” instead of those who ”thrive” in their learning.  In our non-profit organizations (religious or otherwise) we reward those who really work ”with conviction” instead of those who work with ”joy”.  There are countless stories and examples I could list for each of these environments, but again I suspect that most people are wise enough to know this to be abundantly true.  I recently read an article even praising a certain well known author who lifts up certain cultures for their ”hard work habits” and credits that attribute as the best means to wealth & power…  We are saturated by this destructive ”norm” at every turn!

   But what if happiness wasn’t a luxury reserved for the wealthy & powerful?  What if a happy person was more likely to experience greater health & finances than a hard working person?  And what if a shift towards organizational job satisfaction lead to greater productivity not less as is believed by most?  Could it be that folks like Shawn Achor & I aren’t the crazy pollyanna personalities some would easily dismiss because it conflicts with their ”work hard and suffer” philosophy in life? 


I’m happy to see a new generation of research and facts on human and organizational behaviour starting to be taught but we need to keep moving in this direction or else this too shall pass as the latest ‘fad’ in our social evolution…  If you’re in an organization that is looking for ways to cultivate an environment of joy & satisfaction, don’t wait.  Feel free to contact me at http://www.mattsilver.ca and let’s get working on it together.  Afterall, part of my greatest job satisfaction only takes place when I know that my clients are happy and satisfied with how I’ve helped them out.

  That link once again…


In Need Of An Advocate…


I’ve often wondered to myself, ”How do people do it?  How do they get that fine balance of aggression and confidence to go out there and advocate for themselves?”  I’m referring of course to everyone who, like me, is in a professional field where there is a lot of self-promotion or at the very least a lot of self-determination in how they will achieve their ultimate goal…

I’ve started to realize over the past few years however that everyone needs more than just themselves…everyone needs an advocate!  Some of us are fortunate enough to have many, while others only have one or two, but we all need them!  The problem as I see it is very few individuals are aware of how & why they need an advocate.

Think about this…  Consider your surroundings and reflect on that one ”superstar” who is in your office, or work site, or class, or wherever you find yourself daily.  Now think about all that it took for them to get to where they’re at.  Most of us would think about their talent, or ambition, or drive and motivation, maybe it’s even their experience and connections right?  I’m sure some or all of those things might be true, but they had much more than this…they had advocates working behind the scenes for their success!

I once read an interesting quote from Michelle Obama in an interview she did a couple years ago.  She was asked the question of what she would have become if she didn’t make the choice of marrying Barak (then the future president of the United States)?  Her answer was brilliant.  She said something to the effect of:  ”I wouldn’t know because if I wasn’t married to Barak he wouldn’t have become the president of the United States, and the man I married would have!”  Good for her!  Her answer was of course intended to be humourous, but it was also profoundly wise.  Why would we presume success could be achieved unless somebody had the very best advocates around them?  Or to put it into another example, why is it a common workplace story that hard working individuals get passed over for promotions or upward movement when somebody seemingly less qualified got the position?   The answer isn’t that hard if you think about it.  The people that moved forward simply had the advocates they needed.

Having the right advocates is critical with everything we do in life.  Whether you want to succeed in your job, your home life, your inner and spiritual development…etc.  We all need advocates.  The stronger and more determined our advocates, the better our chances of success.  Or to put it another way, the more people can advocate on behalf of our strengths and talents, the better our chances in achieving the results we want…

People sometimes ask me ”Matt why would I ever want to invest in something like organizational alignment and team analysis?  I hardly understand what it is, so why would I invest my money on it?”  My answer tends to be the same each time…

I go over the quick examples I listed above and further explain that everyone needs an advocate (be it in their personal life or within their organization).  To obtain the best results in our lives and/or organizations, we need advocates who have the ability to analyze our strengths and weaknesses.  We need people who advocate for the best usage of our strengths, while minimizing our weaknesses. When it sounds this simple and obvious you’d think every individual and organization has advocates like this working for them around the clock right?  Sadly no.  In fact my experience has shown only a few individuals and organizations take the time to intentionally invest themselves in a process like this.   Most people are comfortable continuing the myth that all the Barak Obama’s of the world got to where they’re at because they had enough individual power and drive to achieve it all on their own.  We furthermore believe that the million man march would’ve been just fine with only one determined individual marching down the streets of Washington.  And yes, we even believe our own lives and organizations will be just fine without anyone advocating on our behalf, we can do it all on our own thank you very much…

To learn more about the fuel that drives me, check out my company website: http://www.mattsilver.ca