To our children, happiness is beginning to just mean a state of entertainment. Entertainment places you at the center of the universe. It is trending towards having every preference served, every difficulty removed, and giving complete control to the “user”. This is cultural happiness.
To our grandparents, happiness meant fulfillment. Fulfillment requires sacrifice and at minimum inconvenience. Fulfillment is serving others and step #1 is understanding that the world doesn’t revolve around you. This is true happiness and the only way to find purpose.
As a Dad of three, I want my children to grow up happy — but which happy is the real question. Sales and ratings are based upon cultural happiness (enabling them into consumers), while true happiness is empowering them to make a difference.
America is awesome. Our first tag line was Protecting your life, liberty and pursuit of happiness until we began to change it like when Coke tried to change their formula. While it never “guaranteed” your happiness, that isn’t the real danger. The danger is in definition. When it was written, happiness meant opportunity. Today it is being redefined into entitlement. I “deserve” is a dangerous road.
Do we have an economy problem or just a happiness problem?
Entitlement and entertainment are not sustainable; they take away. Opportunity and fulfillment are renewable; they give. Do we have an economy problem or just a happiness problem? It is easy to forget that we are at WAR. My grandfather never forgot, when at my age, the World was at WAR. He was asked to sacrifice, I am being asked to buy a Plasma TV. He remembered, I forget. See the difference?
Opportunity doesn’t mean that you will even succeed. It means you get to try incredible things no matter your religion, family history, or social status. This is why America is still awesome. You get to fail. When we make it so nobody fails, we all lose.
WARNING: Whatever you do to entertain or enable someone, tomorrow you will have to do more to keep them entertained and “happy”. We rob others of their purpose when we try to “make them happy”. One will never find their purpose while being entertained or enabled, your purpose comes when you move yourself out of the center of the universe.
As a leader, you cannot make your team (or even your family) culturally happy. The best definition of leadership that I have ever heard (and I have heard a lot of them) was over coffee with author and pastor Mark Batterson: “Leaders create opportunity for others” — he sort of just threw it out there and moved on; but this is everything you need to know about leadership. Don’t make it easy, help them do difficult things. Every dream was once an impossibility.
Inspire others to attempt something beyond themselves — start with yourself. You want the world to be different? Lead it. People will naturally want to help you, your greatest and deepest relationships will be created, and you will find your purpose and inspire others along the way. Instead of setting goals this year, chase opportunity. Instead of making self-centered resolutions, be resolved to change the world. This year give your children lots of books, ice cream, and opportunity.
You won’t be entertained (in fact you probably won’t have much time for TV), but only then can you find true happiness.
~ John-Erik : @johnerikthinks
Photo: Peyton and I riding in the jeep (Vader) with the top down on New Year’s Day 2012.
Special Thanks: Loyd Boldman for an inspiring conversation a few years ago about fulfillment and embracing inconvenience.