Servant Coaching

“Doing selfless acts for the good of the team and acting out what we say we are going to do, builds trust.”

Not long ago I found myself standing in front of 250 top leaders of a Company, amidst the need for a leadership philosophy change. After some real thinking and strategy about my talk, I targeted my messages around trust and people. I learned through many conversations with people at this company, that trust was more than just a word. There was a pervasive feeling across the organization that trust was missing. The division that made up of the people in the audience, had experienced a leadership team approach focused on bringing in talent from the outside as opposed to developing it from within. It soon became apparent to me there was a need for more servant leadership and a recognition of internal leadership abilities. We needed to expand the focus beyond just getting results. While results are part of any equation, especially in the “now”, understanding the progress being made in developing people, teams and capabilities are the lifelines to a sustainable business model for the long term.

What came to mind is a piece from Simon Sinek, “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe.”  He focuses on servant leadership and suggests, “it’s someone who makes their employees feel secure, who draws staffers into a circle of trust.” Imagine working in a place or being part of a team where each individual supports other members first, regardless of rank. Helping each other feel part of something bigger. Mr. Sinek goes on to say, “when a leader puts the safety and lives of people inside an organization first…so that people remain and feel safe and belong, remarkable things happen.”  

At this keynote, I shared a vulnerable story about coaching to reinforce Sinek’s thinking on leadership to influence a philosophy shift at that company. One year, I was coaching my daughter’s third-grade basketball team. We were under-matched in size and talent compared to the other teams in the league. I typically set out the season by asking the players to come up with our team name. Throughout the season, I encourage the girls to, first, be great teammates to each other, and to secondly always try their best and finally to have fun. We happened to be given pink shirts and the girls decided to call our team, the “Pink Popsicles.” Well, it was an unconventional name, yet we kept it as the girls enjoyed coming up with that name together and had fun with it.   

The season began and practices were filled with drills and a focus on learning the fundamentals of the game. At our first couple of games, the score was out of control and we lost by over 20 points each time, which is hard to do at an age where points are hard to come by on the basketball court. The girls seemingly were numb to the scores and were still smiling as they ran back to the bench at the end of the games. After the second loss, I shared how much I appreciated the team’s effort and joy. I also asked them if they were up for a challenge at the next game, to see if we could grab ten rebounds and score in the double-digits. They were excited about the challenge and the littlest girl on the team asked, “what is our reward coach?”. I smiled and asked, “what would be a fun prize?” 

At the first practice, they were looking for a female presence as part of the coaching staff that only included the Dads as the volunteers. It wasn’t a surprise to me when the team asked if I would wear a wig when we achieved our goals.  

 I warmly accepted the challenge and, I was wearing a wig in the last ten minutes of the next game! So embarrassing and rewarding! The girls created the wig by putting a practice jersey on my head and they were determined to have me wear it as often as possible. Doing what we say we are going to do and following through builds trust. Even more so when these are selfless and vulnerable acts for the greater good of the team. Leaders are not entitled to skip these steps and need to model these behaviors for any team to thrive. This was a moment where I knew what I had to do, even though it was unbelievably embarrassing for me. It was essential to show the team that they could trust me as their servant coach.  

 A few games later, we hadn’t won a game and were 0-5. Results weren’t great, yet the team continued to improve and most importantly, the girls were having fun. In Corporate America, my job would be at risk if I were to just look at short-term results and not the continuous improvement underway over the long term. On the last weekend of the season, we were down 18-8, and I was again pacing the floor encouraging, waving my arms, clapping my hands on every positive play. At this point, I thought, “these parents must think I am the worst coach ever” while saying “here we go again.” At half-time, I reminded the girls of our next internal challenge, regardless of the win or loss. Our wig challenges had continued each week and more wig time was always the goal. For the last game, we reached towards our biggest goal yet; 20 points and 17 rebounds (2017 for ease of memory). This time the award was Ben & Jerry’s (even though it was going to happen either way to celebrate the 2017 season, it was fun to put out there). I suggested we get 3 baskets in the third quarter and 4 rebounds explaining that was all we needed for the third. While focusing on the present, they did it and the score became 18-14. Then for the 4th quarter, the same request, 3 baskets, and 4 rebounds. The energy level was increasing, the smiles brighter, the cheering greater than ever. Picture this, 30 seconds left in the game, the score is now 20-18. One more basket, one more rebound, we hit our Ben & Jerry’s goal! We shoot, we miss…..we get the rebound, we score…..boom! The girls exploded with cheers and excitement like never before. They hit the goals that mattered to us as a team, and it didn’t even dawn on them at first that we had just tied the game.  

Several parents texted me later that day and thanked me for the experience and I responded, “the girls inspired me today.” They never gave up and they watched out for each other to achieve their goals together. Funny enough, we ended up winning that game which the girls were happy about, yet they found their peak performance and joy throughout the journey and through achieving the intra-game challenges as a team. This team felt safe to win or lose and focused on helping achieve the much greater outcomes of being true to each other.

The CEO and other leaders from the company where I was speaking, came up to me after the presentation, thanking me for the story and its learnings. I think an impact was made that day based on how the culture is shifting at the organization. I applaud the actions of these leaders to take intentional actions that are more aligned to what their people need. Once people feel safe, I believe amazing results will follow as seen with the “Pink Popsicles.”

My action challenge for you is to think about your part(s) on the many teams you are a part of. At work, in the community or the times that you are the leader.  Find opportunities to put yourself out there and perform acts for the greater good of the team. Lead by example, no matter what your role is, and encourage others to do the same. Living a life that is in service to others, leads to new beginnings and unthinkable opportunities for all of us. I encourage you to open up and live your possible. 


Our true authentic self is the lifeline for igniting our true happiness

Thank you for opening your hearts and welcoming my sometimes vulnerable stories into your life.  Through these stories, I hope to inspire you to slow down for a minute or two and recognize what you are capable of being when you are your true self.  I share these stories and ideas with the intention to inspire others to live their story. It takes time to get comfortable and accepting of ourselves.  We have been trained to conform; to be a certain person, someone that does not represent our fuller selves. At Ignite Happy  we show you the path to take prescriptive and intentional steps towards igniting happiness from within that illuminates a brighter future.  For now, I offer you a part of this path to consider taking; the first step. What will your next 30 days look like if you take the chance? Think about taking that first step. Show yourself some kindness.  Take notice of how “strong” words affect you, and begin taking more steps towards being a stronger you.

I encourage you to be S.T.R.O.N.G. from this day forward. Be strong for yourself and all the amazing people that benefit from the fact that you are in their world.  You are a gift to this world with the ability to happily dish out kindness, joy, love, and generosity with genuine care and purpose.

Stand up ready to consciously live your life, you are worth it

Trust with belief can make you unstoppable, dream

Reflect on what you want to be remembered for, purposely live out loud

Optimism is contagious, spark the skies all around you with yours

Now you can be the real you, fully alive, inspire others with your presence

Grow through wonder and inclusion, connect hearts to possibilities

Start by Standing up and being ready for life’s challenges.  Take them head-on. Flip the script and instead of those challenges taking you over or filling your head with paralyzing thoughts, take intentional steps to explore and address these challenges each day.  Opportunities become more abundant over time if you are more open to them.  

Trust ourselves, believe in the good of others and find the avenues that invite others into our lives.  Including others for the beauty and uniqueness, we each have to unleash. Illuminate the light in you and your path shall become clearer.

Not being stuck in the middle or lost in the shuffle, rather enlightening others has all to do with how we Reflect in the world. Positivity sets the groundwork and fuels all the good to come.  Be good, to get good and put joy out in the world and you will see it returned. Expect what you reflect.  Practice being kind and compassionate to yourself, then watch how you are better able to give the same to others.

“Having direction and trust is all about knowing where you are going without knowing exactly where you will end up”

Living with a positive outlook and attitude is proven to have profound impacts on healthier and happier living.  Having the ability to be Optimistic is a choice. Start today and over time, it is just the way you will be; filled with hope while knowing that we are able to change in ways that illuminate a new path.  Your light, when combined with others, can create powerful illumination for others to follow.   

Never underestimate your child-like skills, like creativity and happiness, that are dimmed down over time as we trudge through the adult world.  There are these unconscious biases and learnings taught to us by our society that have us living in a way that we are certain about in our subconscious.  It is scary to think that we have been programmed, like robots, to fall back to our “normal” and “acceptable” state. From Now on, it is our time.  It is time, for our uniqueness to be the new normal.  Now is the time to be accepted by others as we bring our best selves, regardless of where we have come from or what we look like.  I believe you and many others have unique beauty inside, just waiting to be unleashed.   

When we stand frozen for too long, we fall behind.  Some of us are unclear, blurred or even ignorant to the implications of living life rigidly, assuming all of life’s questions are already answered.  Even worse, an unwillingness to change or try new things, accepting an “it is what is” approach that makes it easy to self-rationalize. Growth enables us to change and begin to believe anything is possible.  Amazing growth comes from embracing discomfort with putting ourselves out in the world with vulnerability and accepting where we are.  When we include others and our surroundings as opportunities to learn from, we set up ourselves up to grow fully. I encourage you to come alive with an ever-present ability to be childishly curious.   Our world is better with you in it and even better when you are fully you.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change”

– Charles Darwin

Our path is our own and it is ours to own.  Find someone to share it with, to encourage you to take daily steps.   Take a small part of each day to self-reflect with self-compassion and forgiveness intended to ignite your own learning. It is the right thing to do, for yourself.  Nothing or nobody is perfect and I always say that inactivity is worse than trying and not being perfect. Be grateful for each moment and try to commit to setting aside just 15 minutes of each day to take back control of your life and learn from exploring through honest self-reflection.  Your best, future life depends on it. Accept that you are worthy. I believe in you and I am here for you.  

Find joy on your journey and ignite the path ahead!  Happiness doesn’t have to be all-consuming, in every second of your day, it just needs to be close enough that you can reach out and grab it.  It starts from within you. Live and see what is possible.

Dance Out Loud

Allow your happiness to be a dance; to come alive and live out loud

It all started with a curiosity to learn something new.  My daughter asked to join a dance class at the young age of three.  She signed up and absolutely loved it. The group learned new dances and jumped around with new-found friends.  It was all fun and games until she realized she needed to spotlight all of the new skills on stage at an upcoming dance recital.   The joy that once filled her was replaced with the anxiety that comes with performing in front of an audience.    

One day my daughter came home with a brochure, “Calling all Dancing Dads” interested in dancing in a routine at the recital.  As I read it, I immediately had butterflies in my stomach and blushed with embarrassment at the thought of getting on stage, not unlike my daughter’s.  My little girl asked me if I would do it. Even though I was totally insecure about it, I jumped at the chance to do this. I would do anything for her.  I was nervous about going on stage too and for something I had no business doing in front of others. We formed a pack that said, “if you go on stage, then I will too.”

Fast forward eight years and numerous dance recitals later with D.A.N.C.E by Kristin ( and I see the happiest little girl on stage.  She has grown up with such comfort, confidence, and pure joy while performing.  The pack we committed to and followed through on was a simple challenge, yet we both grew from our willingness to try new things and to overcome our fears. We came to new-found joyous places as a result.  

A funny thing occurred when my wife called me out a few recitals ago, when I received my 5-year trophy, stating that “I think you enjoy this “Dancing Dad” bit as much as our daughter.”  This most recent recital made me realize she was spot on. I heard there was a possibility the “Dancing Dad” group was not performing. I admittedly felt bummed. Then like clockwork, an email came out again, “Calling for all Dancing Dads” and I asked my girl what she thought.  She giggled and gave me a big smile, saying, “of course Daddy, you guys are funny up there.” Her acceptance of me for who I am and my silly dancing around the house and stage, simply warms my heart. Besides learning some new moves, this new adventure helped me build an amazing connection with my daughter in a whole new plane. We talk about dancing and she guides me rather than the other way around. 

When we least expect it, moments turn into movements

Have you ever been caught dancing?  Embarrassing right? Or was it liberating to show a little bit of yourself out in the open?  

It is embarrassing for me, especially if you ever saw me dance.  After thinking about a specific time when I was caught dancing, my stomach sunk.  Although I thoroughly enjoy dancing, It was something I was holding in. The irony here for me is I seem to be my best self when I let myself dance out loud. It is empowering. 

I have learned through experience that there is power in learning new things,  especially those that allow us to expand in totally new directions. We gain the most from learning things that really stretch our idea of who we are; things that make us feel vulnerable.  In fact, each story I share in this blog is a vulnerable moment for me that I am willing to share in the hope it will spark something in all those that read my words. Ask yourself if you are open to learning new things or even exploring without an expectation to be perfect?  Growth comes from taking actions, fumbling, stumbling and continuously improving in your quest to get better. The secret is finding the joy along these journeys and to know that happiness is never far away. Once you are ready to take a small step or risk, you are at the edge of your comfort zone and ready to jump in.   Each new experience, each difference welcomed, and each person accepted for who they are will add to the joy in your life. I call this zone the “Circle of Possibilities.” With curiosity and action, we can expand our circle to unimaginable places that are there for the taking, right in front of us. Simply following the comfortable path of the known is a sure-fire way to miss out on a world filled with possibilities.  

Check out the “Leader” video ( and look what happens when people authentically puts themselves out there. As you watch, think of where you have been that “lone nut” or the one viewed as crazy, a lunatic, an outcast and different.  It was actually someone dancing out loud and saying “I am alive” and not worrying what people might think. That is true vulnerability. When we least expect it, moments turn into movements. It all starts at that moment.

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, join the dance” - Alan Watts

Join me in the dance.  In order for us to be ready to take action and change even a little bit, we need to become comfortable with not being perfect.  I love the intersection here. Just like dancing as a metaphor, we move to the rhythm we hear and we feed our thoughts with where we want to go.  You can feel the energy when you are connected with something that touches you in a new and different way. What is that for you? Spark and add fuel to that connection.  For me, it is finding happiness in unexpected places. Maybe it is joy, love, hope, creativity or something else for you.  Maybe try out a new artistic skill to stoke new thinking and childlike interest.  Be humbled and allow the feeling it creates within to come alive. Find the connections and take notice what you see around you.  Be open to it and build from there. Live and see your possible.

When Joy Meets Happy

“You can’t sustainably achieve that outside joy unless there is also inside joy” – 

Richard Sheridan, CEO Menlo Innovations 

When joy meets happy…eyes become clearer and brighter and they see a life of what is possible.  It is the intersection where we can objectively self-reflect with positivity and compassion.  From here, we become open and aware. We can explore new thinking. We are primed with the curiosity needed to explore differences and continuously expand our circle of opportunities.  

I recently visited an amazing place where people are thriving.  Menlo Innovations is an organization that puts its people first as they push forward with their stated mission “to end human suffering in the world as it relates to technology.”  Menlo Innovations is a unique workplace where a diverse team of people, called Menlonians, find joy in and gain knowledge from, the many experiments they run each day. Menlonians are constantly evolving and trying new things as a way to learn and grow. They believe continuous growth is an essential piece to their team’s success in achieving their mission. Even this group that seems to have it right with a culture led by joy, invited in a different perspective. Richard Sheridan, CEO of Menlo Innovations, Author of Joy, Inc. and Chief Joy Officer recently invited Ignite Happy to lead a talk, at an internal learning event at Menlo Innovations. The purpose was to spark his team in new ways to joyfully explore taking steps that open doors to new possibilities that further innovation and creativity. 

Ignite Happy happily encouraged Menlonians to begin taking daily actions with the level of commitment needed to forge a better future for each of them individually, and as a team.   They were encouraged to take purposeful steps to connect their inner happiness with external possibilities; to invite different perspectives where child-like curiosity collides with creativity.  The irony for me is that this organization is a constant reminder and inspiration to me. Menlo reminds me that joy and happiness can coexist with work. Menlo Innovations has a culture that encourages employees to continuously seek joy and thrive in it.  Through constant practice and exploration along this path helps Menlonians land in unimaginable places. As the Founder and Chief of Possibilities at Ignite Happy, I shared vulnerable stories and experiences to help awaken a new way of looking at happiness as a means to greater inclusiveness and compassion.  I also introduced a path to follow, the Ignite Happy Path, which is a six-step prescriptive path, uniquely created for people looking for practical solutions to see a life of what is possible.  The path aligns a set of human fundamentals and dozens of prescriptive solutions in a purposeful way. It helps to tee up the spark of excitement and wonder within.  By taking intentional steps, we can change habits and rewire our thinking to look forward, not back. We can overcome inertia and connect our inner self with the abundance of opportunities available all around us.

Open doors to new possibilities that once felt out of reach

Richard Sheridan graciously extended his joy to me with this invitation to help me live out my personal purpose; to bring out the best in people, help them ignite happy from within and to live and see a life of what is possible.  Rich has been an inspiration and a mentor to me with his uplifting guidance and encouragement. In a recent workshop at Menlo Innovations, Leading with Joy, I found my “highest goal” which is a concept from Michael Ray’s book of the same name.  Through an experiment Rich facilitated in the workshop, it helped me clearly understand and boil my life’s mission down to one word. Just one word. A word that emotionally filled me up, and simultaneously fired me up when I spoke about it. This word is “possibilities.”  I believe anything is possible. I feel deeply that my purpose in life is showing the world what can be overcome on a path to true inner happiness. No matter where we are or where we have been, nothing is out of reach. I am living proof of that. Rich Sheridan and Menlo Innovations have been instrumental in my inner epiphany that the world is eager for more good, love, and joy.  Each of us can help make a difference.

Ever hear of Shawn Achor, author of Happiness Advantage?  Mr. Achor is one of the world’s leading experts on human potential. In his motivational talks and writings, he opened my mind to the realization that we can change and the quest for true inner happiness can be a powerful catalyst for that change.  When I first heard him speak, my heart skipped a beat. I am wired to be positive and happy, yet the daily grind had worn me down over time. Life just happened.

I really do believe life reveals itself and at almost the same time I met another author, Frans Johansson Author of The Medici Effect. Frans’s writings and speeches showed me the next best action to take on my journey and to keep it simple.  He said, “Darrin, that is great you have 100 potential ideas, pick one… one that you have real passion behind.”  Yes! Pick one, so profound -). Then I began to “run the experiment” and simply intersect my passion with my newfound “highest goal”,  using happiness as my platform to seek what is possible. Frans is an expert in seeing the intersection of two unrelated things as the basis for innovation.  I marvel at the approach and it directly correlates to our human ability to find the connection in things all around us. Menlo Innovations showed me we can actually have joy and actually achieve this at work.  Finding that we can intersect happiness and joy at the workplace has me believing anything is possible (joy meets happy). The collection of these learnings has taught me to be me, in the most genuine way. I started to come alive!  I have allowed my full self to connect to people in ways that come from the bottom of my heart. 

One small step you can consider starting today is to begin understanding what beliefs are within you, just below the surface waiting to spring free.  Begin jotting them down and observe what type of energy comes from these musings. Do these create positive energy or conflict around you? I encourage you to reinforce the ones out loud that create positivity or more joy.  Live and see your possible. 

Connecting the Dots

Human Connection Is Everything.

In the over forty years of my life, I have been changing, growing and unknowingly trying to make meaningful connections along the way.  At times, most times, I was too uptight and unaware of where to look. I felt a disconnect from my emotions and my purpose. I now understand the bigger picture.  A big part of my revelation is being open to seeking the missing connections. “Ignite Happy” helped me put it all together and is positioned to teach others how to connect in new ways that are the most meaningful to them.

In the day-to-day, many people struggle to find purpose.  There is this innate need to connect, that is being ignored by many.  Once we get to a higher state of connection, we have a better ability to live our life the way we choose.  Sometimes we need to believe it before we can live it. In the Book of Joy, The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu highlighted that “love and connection are all we need and is our state of being.”  Finding links to meaning and relationships drive our interdependence and higher purpose.

Starting to understand ourselves is essential for connection.  It is difficult to find understanding if we are programmed to suppress specific thoughts or emotions.  We need to evolve and continuously change to ignite deep connection and thrive. For example, take a pass on letting your mood turn based on what people are posting on social media.  Figuring out what matters most to us will connect us in seemingly disjointed ways. In these connections, we find the intersection of playful and possible.

Try Seeing Life From Different Points Of View While Taking In The Vividness Around You.

I have made it a personal mission to expand my circle of connections while allowing people to be their full selves.  I have come to realize that taking in more of the vivid life around me has brought me authentic and fulfilling joy. It was right in front of me the whole time. I challenge you to leverage your full mind and to see things openly and fully.  Seek joy in yourself, from others and the seemingly random things all around you.  

Have you ever heard the adage that we only use 10% of our brains?  Science tells us our minds can continue to expand. We have the physical ability to explore and learn in new ways that enable us to make unexplainable, and surprising connections. As kids, we were full of wonder.  When you combine these two words, you form a new and powerful word; that word is won-der-ful. As adults this gives me hope that we can re-ignite the child-like wonder and creativity that fade throughout our adult lives.   

I am going to be straight with you. Part of this journey will challenge you to do different things.  I often talk about seeing life from different views and taking everything in around you at once. When listening to music, do you listen to only the drummer in the song?  Likely not. Putting all the sounds together from a full band sparks the magic that is greater than each musician’s parts. Isolation limits our possibilities. Just imagine if you could open your mind a little bit more every day “create your rock band of happiness.”   

It (Happiness) Is Inside And All Around Us. Make The Connections To Ignite Your Happy. 

I am happiest when I see other people genuinely happy and smiling.  There is a glow you see in someone who has tapped into their inner joy.  Seeing people take purposeful action and watching them experience a paradigm shift in the way they see the world is inspiring.  The “it” factor happens when people find their “inner happiness” through transformational change. New thinking leads to a whole new view of what life can be.  It is about your dreams, not anyone else’s. 

 I am looking to wake people up to what can happen when you choose to pursue happiness. Igniting Happiness begins from within. I encourage you to see a life of what is possible.  I aim to inspire people to work on themselves; to find their “it” and to have the commitment to pursue it (no pun intended).   

We all deserve happiness based on our definition. Let’s create a ripple effect of positive change, one “me” at a time.  For starters, think of something you are grateful or thankful for when you awake each day and begin connecting your day with positive thoughts. 

Upside Down: Results First, People Second

Imagine if you could live your passion as an avenue to connect with people.

I LOVE numbers. So much so that a majority of my roles at the beginning of my career focused on numbers and results. As time passed, my interests changed, and although I still love numbers, they aren’t the force in my career choices they once were. After twenty years of experience in Corporate America, I saw a need to translate these numbers and critical business metrics into a more understandable business language; into a human language. All in the spirit of making connections for people to contribute value in ways that make them proud.

Then one day it hit me like a 2″ x 4″. Not only did I feel a fundamental change, I saw others deliver in ways I had never seen before, and in ways, I never could have imagined. It was then when I realized the power in showing a genuine interest in connecting with others. It was then when I realized the power …connecting with others can spark amazing change from within.

I had it backward. Treating people like tools or robots to achieve results is out-dated and shows limited thinking. It is the wrong way to look at things. If you believe your people drive results, then unleash them and you might be surprised what happens. This is limited thinking and that is powered by the connection of people, not robotsResults first, not people had me upside down. I began to understand that my love of numbers was an avenue to connect with people. I now LOVE helping people more than anything else, especially helping people connect their dots, so they thrive. What started as a love of connecting numbers as an unsolved puzzle has transformed into connecting people with life’s abundant opportunities. My learning? Focus on people throughout the journey to bring out their best self and have the belief that amazing results will follow.

People will amaze you in unexpected ways if you allow them to.

Thinking back to my childhood for a minute, I have come to realize I was ready at an early age to bring people together in ways I was unable to comprehend at the time. I started my first “company” at the age of nine, with a couple of my closest neighborhood friends, JK, and Bugger. It was my second job at the time. I was the paperboy for the neighborhood, including the street I lived on, Sylvan Avenue. Have you ever seen people at their front door after they just woke up and before a cup of coffee, looking for their paper? It is quite a sight. Some wore bathrobes and others barely dressed at all when checking to see if their morning news was ready for perusing. My neighbors looked so disheveled and out of touch. To deflect the awkwardness, I tried to think about what gave each of my neighbors the enthusiasm to get up in the morning. What made each of them happy? Then, with the brazenness of a nine-year-old boy, I just decided to find out. I enlisted JK and Bugger and found a solution. Soon, our very own local paper for our very own street called the “Sylvan Gazette” was in publication.

JK was the mastermind behind the operation. Bugger and I did the running around and sought out my paper route customers to participate in our idea. When I collected money for “The Post Star,” I diverted the annoying conversation into one that would get my customers to open their eyes and look at me differently. I would check to see if they had a story to share with others on the street. To our delight, we had several people interested in providing personal stories for the “Gazette.” We began to interview and report on their stories, then the work would go into production and copies were run to deliver to our friends and neighbors on Sylvan Avenue.

Get this; I believe we were asking 25 cents for each paper. Our goal was to make some “candy money.” To my surprise, it became a passion for sharing the scoop on the street. I learned quite a bit and made connections with my neighbors in a more profound way that enabled me to see life through their eyes. They let their guard down and opened up. It was another life-changing experience I didn’t recognize at the time.

As I reflect now, what I truly learned is what incredible things can happen when you ask people questions with genuine interest. People shared beautiful details about their day trips, vacations, gardens, pets, and whatever seemed to bring them true inner happiness. High school athletes talked about their significant accomplishments, and parents often gushed about their kids. The stories were always there, but the monotony of everyday life suppressed them. It took a catalyst, the “Sylvan Gazette” to pull them out. I had never seen my neighbors come alive the way they did during these interviews with three little kids. Much more so than seeing them in their bathrobes, waiting for the morning paper, that is for sure.

As I reflect even further, our street was vibrant and lively. Youthful inexperience made me think every neighborhood was like this. In reality, it was a unique place. I often reflect on why it was so different than many other streets. There were many reasons why Sylvan Avenue was so unique, and now I better understand those reasons. The “Sylvan Gazette” was an important one. People had an exchange wherein they could share a piece of themselves and be a little vulnerable through the eyes of the curious young reporters writing their story. They seemed to wave more often, were out in their yards more and found additional ways to connect. We lived in a blissful bubble. Sylvan Avenue was a special place.

It takes a little work to create the dynamics of a Sylvan Avenue. It doesn’t just happen. Sometimes we need a little nudge to get us going. I never realized that my real passion was making connections for people and that the “candy money” was just a means to this end. Maybe one of your kids will start their very own Sylvan Gazette! You can engage with others in a way that might amaze you too. Try simply asking others, “what brings you joy” and listen as you have never before. Don’t judge it and simply support the discourse through curious inquiry. You might be surprised what people share when you genuinely ask with care. Ignite happy from within -).

Light Up Your Sky

We need to evolve and continuously change to ignite our inner happiness and thrive.

Too many people settle into their day-to-day and are on a path that is far from they dreamed life would be. A survey from The Telegraph showed a full 70% of respondents feel stuck in a monotonous routine where they feel unhappy. As a result, people are either falling into a rut, withdrawing into a cocoon, or becoming zombie-like robots. Too many people are settling into an “it is what it is” pattern of living, giving up on trying to grow and thrive continuously. This line of thinking limits potential and suppresses true happiness. I challenge each of you to aspire to something more.

Consuming happiness can be fun; however, being consumed by happiness is exhilarating.

It is difficult to find real joy and compassion for one’s self or for others without inner happiness. We have been trained to think that being happy is something that just happens or is something that we consume.  In fact, products are sold to us to consume with a subliminal message of happiness.  Thinking if we buy or use such products, we will be happy or happier.   Let’s take a road trip together and experience this together. You can start your day with a trip to a coffee chain that advertises a “happy days” promotion, or a donut shop that displays “happiness is better shared” with a box of donuts in the picture. Why not go to the “happiest place on earth” on vacation, grab a “happy meal” for lunch, stop at the “corner of healthy and happy” to fill a prescription or do some shopping in a store with the tagline “You. Happier.” I can order a beer called Be Hoppy at my local pizza joint. For dessert, my favorite ice cream shop sells ice cream cakes encased by a box labeled “Euphoria to go.” It is good to know that when we get tired of consuming all of this “happiness”, we can sleep on a mattress that claims we can “sleep happier.” Stop to see what you are being sold and then reflect for a minute what really makes you happy. Share your learnings with me at [email protected] or post on this blog; We are taught to believe happiness is temporary, like a sugar high or even that it is artificial. How can we not be happy by the end of the day? It is all around us. All of these consumables help us get through the day, yet leave us with a feeling of emptiness. The consumption of “happiness” is a temporary fix that pales in comparison to a more profound human connection; to true inner happiness.

There is this innate need to connect, and we need to believe happiness is attainable before we can live it.

It is striking to me that when I talk about the word, happy, many people flinch because discussing true happiness is so uncomfortable to them. Some people snark at me. I see some people pull away as if they aren’t interested in being happy at all. Adults have real-world problems and obligations. Is the attainment of true happiness something “real” adults should even think about or discuss? When I connect with people open to change and wanting more happiness, I often see them tilt their head with interest. Their eyes light up, and some even share happy tears of hope. I have chosen to devote my time and energy to the emotion/ word “happy” as I believe this is the catalyst that will jolt people into living a life of what is truly possible. While happiness ebbs and flows over short periods, a true foundational, inner happiness helps us handle life’s complexities and unfortunate events more quickly. It empowers us to see the silver linings in life that can propel us forward. True happiness is not a destination, but a journey that takes self-reflection and vigilance. There is no real end to a rainbow, yet the beauty along its arc is something to see. That being said, this blog is not about rainbows and unicorns. It is about being open-minded and doing the work needed to find real, sustainable happiness. Welcome to the journey.