Happiness. I’ve spent the better part of 20 years looking for it and never quite got there. Over the course of my career I’ve worked in fast moving consumer goods (Pepsi), technology (Google), gaming (Glu, i-play, Codemasters), startups (2 of my own as well at Course Hero and GetJar), sold door to door nutritional supplements and even organized underground Rave parties (in a galaxy far far away). Always questing, always searching, always hungry.
Sometimes I could see it in the distance. Like a mirage. Visible but not quite in my grasp. Occasionally, I thought I was close due to fame, winning awards, being in the Wall Street Journal or seeing myself on CNBC or working for Google. So close yet so far. Almost in grasp but never quite there.
At one point I was rich on paper. If only for a while. Then...poof. All gone. I had to start all over.
Like many of you reading this post I was looking, searching, questing. And that was the problem. I was looking but not seeing. I was comparing myself to others. Looking at material yardsticks. Thinking about material things then getting them and then needing more. All for what? I didn’t even know. The happiness was ephemeral. It would last a few days, weeks or months and then I was back to where I was before. I just kept working. The more I worked the more tired I got. The more tired I became the more empty I felt inside.
Fast forward to today. I’m happier than I’ve been in a very long time. How do I know that? Well, here are a couple of ways:
I appreciate and value the small things in life. A sunny day. A nice bike ride around my neighborhood. The warm embrace of my kids. The way a woman might smile at me from across the bar (love that). The little things really.
I do things I enjoy. Sounds simple but so is burnout. Someone once told me the formula for burnout is this: Time spent doing things you love - Time spent doing things you hate = state of mind. The more the equation skews toward doing things you hate the greater the risk of burnout. The more you do things you love the happier you’ll be. It’s really not that complicated. Today I help people tell stories and I help senior marketers find flow and be happy and productive. I don’t manage people, I don’t deal with boards, investors or and all that stuff. I maximize the time I spend doing things I enjoy and I minimize “Le Crap” as I call it. Simple really.
I don’t need to compare myself to others. If someone drives a nice car or has a nice house I think “good for him” (ok, sometimes I also think “why does he need 8 bedrooms?”). I’m content with what I have and thankful for it every day.
People tell me. People come up to me and say things like “man you look good.” or “you’re like... glowing.” Every time I go out I get approached by someone I don’t know and it’s not because I’m rich, famous or even good looking (well, maybe decent looking). It’s because i’m happy. I’m at peace. I don’t give two shits. It’s that simple.
So what’s the answer? How do you find happiness? Well, for starters I don’t think you ever “find” it. I think it’s just in there. Latent in each one of us waiting to be uncovered. In my case it was really about self exploration and getting to know myself. Asking myself “what really matters?” “what makes me ‘happy’?” and digging deep. But more importantly, being happy starts with “knowing yourself”.
How I got to know myself
Let me be clear: Getting to know myself took time, effort and a lot patience (all told about 4 years since I've been at it). It was also painful when I peeled back layers of the onion and, frankly, found some things I really needed to work on. Here are some of the things I did:
Attended Landmark Forum: I did a weekend seminar at Landmark Forum and uncovered a whole bunch of things that were holding me back. I uncovered “ratchets” (automated behavioral responses that are conditioned when you feel threatened by a certain thing) that had held me back for years. I shared my story with others who had really serious problems, heard their stories and worked in groups so we could support each other to help tackle our issues
Asked close friends for feedback. I spent a lot of time talking to friends. I asked them for the harsh truth. For example, at one point I sent emails and I asked friends two questions:
“What are the 2-3 things you feel after you’ve spent time with me. How do I make you feel?”
“What are the 1-2 major obstacles you think are holding me back? What are my blind spots?”
Some of the feedback was fairly obvious and validated things I discovered at Landmark. Other feedback was more subtle yet powerful. The key here is that you have to be able to ask people who you trust but who will also tell you the honest truth. They want to help you. They’re not there to please you. Knowing yourself means being honest with yourself.
Took a number of online tests: I took tests that could provide objective, impartial feedback based on proven techniques. Here are some of the ones I used:
16 Personalities: A good place to start, easy to use and FREE site that allows you to do a personality test to better understand yourself. It’s very similar to the Meyers-Briggs personality tests. This particular test gives you not only your personality type but also tells you how it applies to your work, social life and to the type of work you could be doing. A decent start but you'll want to go deeper if you're serious.
Gallup Strengthfinder: Based off of the popular book, the theory is that if you know your strengths and build off of those you can really achieve amazing things and build confidence. Too often, people want to jump into something they’re excited or passionate about but don’t necessarily have the skills for. The key is to build “towards” what you love while capitalizing on what you’re really good at. The Strengthfinder helped me clearly realize what I was good at so that I could build on that with the new venture I’ve launched recently (www.madmork.com). When you capitalize on your core strengths and with confidence and persistence you can do anything.
Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI for short): Similar to 16 personalities but more accurate and deeper in my opinion (though it's not free). I learned a lot about myself doing this test. What I like about this particular test is that it also gives you “levels” of behaviour for your type which give you an indication of how your type behaves when it’s emotionally healthy and the type of behaviour you risk falling into when you’re emotionally out of whack. Lastly, RHETI also gives you suggestions for personal growth based on your personality type and tells you how you interact with other personality types and whether they’re a good fit for you romantically for example.
Hired a personal coach: OK, this might totally sound like self promotion since I now coach marketing leaders but honestly, in my case it was more of a life coach and business coach. I was a skeptic, particularly given the cost, but it’s turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. We meet for 2 hours every other week and my coach helps me stay honest, focused and checks me when I’m going off in the wrong direction. More importantly, a coach is a person that gets to know you deeply, is impartial and only wants what’s best for you. He gives me homework ranging from sending feedback on our sessions within 24 hours of each session to reading certain books or doing certain exercises to challenge my existing assumptions about myself or finding new ways to grow personally or professionally. We also have an agreement that he can dish out the cold, hard truth when I need it. He also checks in on me periodically via text or email when he knows I’m dealing with something important.
Read & Watched powerful content: Get off the TV, shut off the Xbox and stop watching cats falling out of windows. You are what you eat and what you feed your brain directly impacts your ability to learn and grow. I’ve done a lot of reading and seen a lot of TED talks, movies and documentaries that really influenced me. Here are a couple:
Search Inside Yourself (Chade Made-Meng Tan): All about the topic of mindfulness from a fellow Googler and extraordinary person.
Mindset (Carol Dweck): Great book about how the mind works and the importance of your mindset and outlook on life.
Drive (Daniel Pink): Talks about where human motivation comes from. The difference between internal and external motivation.
Be Here Now (Documentary on Netflix): Incredibly powerful story that really drives home why you need to live in the moment and do what you love. Unforgettable.
Tony Robbins: The Master of motivation. Whether it’s his events, books or interviews there’s always something new to learn from the man himself.
Enlisted those close to me: All of this is for nothing if you don’t share your challenges, goals and dreams with people around you. By sharing with those around you, you commit yourself more seriously to working on your challenges and you also make yourself accountable to those people. When you have setbacks you can also go to those people for help. I have no less than 6 different support structures to keep me honest on everything from my fitness, health, work and personal life. These structures support me weekly and daily. Being happy and knowing yourself isn’t something that happens overnight. YOU have to do the work and stick with it.
I hope this is helpful for you. Please like, share, tweet, post, email comment, snail mail, send smoke signals or whatever. Remember that the key is also to pay it forward. If this in any helps you I’m sure you know several people who would equally benefit.
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Patrick ‘Mad’ Mork